BOSTON--Attorneys for four men sentenced in the notorious Big Dan's barroom rape will appeal today before the state Supreme Court that the men were erroneously convicted.
The attorneys' briefs in the appeal have been filed with the Bristol County district attorney's office, which will have attorneys Philip Weiner and Patricia Ellis arguing against acquital.
The four men, all members of New Bedford's Portuguese community, were convicted in 1984. They are Daniel Silva, Victor Raposo, John Cordeiro and Joseph Vieira.
Judge William Young gave Silva, Raposo and Cordeiro prison terms of nine to 12 years. Vieira was given a term of six to eight years. All were sentenced to Walpole State Prison, Massachusetts' maximum-security facility.
Silva and Vieira were tried separately from Raposo, Cordeiro and two other men, Jose Medeiros and Virgilio Medeiros. The Medeiroses, who are not related, were acquitted of all charges in the rape, which occurred March 6, 1983 at Big Dan's tavern.
The trials were conducted separately to prevent the defendants from testifying against each other.
According to briefs in the case, Raposo's attorneys will argue that Raposo should have been granted a trial of his own. They also will argue that Young should not have allowed into testimony Raposo's prior conviction of assault with a dangerous weapon, the briefs stated.
Attorneys representing the four are appealing on a variety of other points as well. The briefs said the attorneys will tell the justices that jurors in the case were prejudiced by cameras allowed into the courtroom by Young, who ruled that pictures could be taken of the defendants but not of the victim.
The men's attorneys will argue that jurors could have perceived that the victim, who has since died in a Florida car crash, was more credible because cameras weren't allowed to focus on her.
Attorneys for Silva and Vieira will argue that court testimony given by the victim was not included in prior statements provided to the defense.
Testimony during the trial, which became the subject of national attention and was broadcast on cable television, indicated the victim stopped at the tavern to buy cigarettes, and took someone's offer to stay and drink and watch pool.
Testimony indicated that shortly after arriving, she was raped on the pool table.
Vieira's attorney, David Wexler, contended during the trial that the victim, then 22, shared some responsibility for encouraging the attack by drinking and flirting with the men.
Members of the Portuguese community had argued throughout the trial that excessive news coverage of the case made acquitals for the men impossible.