Aug. 17, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Jarvey (508) 368-7241
WORCESTER — A Superior Court judge has set aside a jury’s verdict and ordered a new trial for one of three men convicted of first-degree murder in the 1994 slaying of Kevin Harkins, according to Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.
John Fredette, who was living in Saco, Maine, in 2012 when he was arrested, was found guilty on June 25, 2014, of first-degree murder on the theory of felony murder. He was given the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Mr. Fredette’s attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that felony murder requires an act of violence separate from the homicide, and that there was no evidence of such presented at trial.
In a ruling handed down yesterday, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker, who presided over the trial, agreed with the defense and ruled that errors in the jury instructions warranted a new trial.
“Day in and day out, we put our faith in the jury system,” Mr Early said. “We strongly feel the jury’s decision was reasonable and proper based on the evidence presented and the judge’s instructions to the jury. I am very disappointed in the judge’s decision. We will pursue every avenue available to appeal this decision.”
Matteo Trotto and Elias Samia were also convicted of first-degree murder in 2014 in the slaying of Mr. Harkins.
“No verdict or punishment will ever bring Kevin back, however, after 20 years of waiting we have finally received some closure in the form of justice,” said Karen Ramirez, the sister of Mr. Harkins. “We are heartbroken to think there is even a possibility we will have to relive that night, in the courtroom, yet again. Our only source of comfort, at this point, is our belief in our justice system and faith that the verdict will be upheld.”
Mr. Harkins, 36, was called from Suney’s Pub on Chandler Street about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, 1994. He was seen getting into a car with three men, according to testimony. He was never seen again.
Prosecutors said Mr. Harkins was murdered because he reneged on a deal to give false testimony in Mr. Fredette’s drug trial on Feb. 15, 1994 in exchange for a bag of cocaine. Mr. Fredette was convicted and sentenced to 4-6 years in prison in 1994.