After three decades behind bars, man released because racism tainted his murder trial
‘The justice system needs to be held accountable,’ says Corey Glover
AFTER SPENDING 31 years in prison for murder, Corey Glover walked out of MCI-Norfolk a free man on May 4, after arguing successfully that a juror’s racism prevented him from getting a fair trial.
“I’m not bitter, I’m better,” Glover, now 51 years old, says in an hour-long interview over Zoom. But talk to Glover about the injustices of his case, and it’s easy to hear his anger at a system he believes is systemically unfair to the primarily Black and brown men who get caught up in it.
Glover’s story is one of getting caught up in the violence of tough urban neighborhoods. But it is also about race, and about a young Black man tried by a jury not of his peers, in an era when the impact of racism was less acknowledged than it is today. A juror at his trial admitted her bias during jury questioning, and the judge – whose own feelings on race have been questioned – let her serve.
Glover’s attorney, Nora Leovich, said racism was clearly present in the 1992 courtroom, but it wasn’t until attitudes on race changed and a prisoner advocate got involved that it became clear how glaring its impact was. “As Mr. Glover has said, it didn’t have to be a perfect trial. It had to be a fair trial. That’s not what it was,” Leovich said.
Glover grew up in the housing projects of Brighton and Mission Hill in Boston, and also spent part of his childhood in Philadelphia. He was one of 10 siblings – seven girls and three boys – raised by his mother. Glover never knew his father. While Glover’s mother was loving and supportive, Glover says as a Black boy, without a father, he lacked proper male guidance. In his neighborhoods, he said, “I looked to the hustlers and the street guys.”
That wound up taking him down a very dark path.
Arrested when he was just 17, Glover pleaded guilty in Suffolk Superior Court to assault-related charges. He was paroled in December 1990.
Nineteen days after his release, Glover was arrested on charges of murder and armed robbery for fatally stabbing 26-year-old Forrest Hall in Lynn in January 1991.
The facts of what happened are disputed. According to a 2011 Supreme Judicial Court ruling upholding his conviction, prosecutors said Glover and another man, Marshall Flonory, robbed James Kallelis at knifepoint. Kallelis told two men, including Hall, about the robbery, and they identified and confronted Glover and Flonory. During the confrontation, Glover stabbed Hall in the neck, killing him.
Glover disputed that account, according to court documents. Glover’s attorney said at his trial that Glover did not rob Kallelis, but the dispute arose from an earlier drug deal between Kallelis and Flonory. Glover said Hall demanded drugs from him, and Glover said he wasn’t a dealer. Glover then saw Hall pull something out of his jacket and feared Hall would hurt him, so he swung his knife in self-defense.
Glover claimed at trial that he was not guilty because he was acting in self-defense. He was acquitted of robbery but convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
Glover tried four times to petition for a new trial, mostly based on issues around jury instructions, but each time he was unsuccessful.
A JARRING JUROR ADMISSION
Then Lynn Currier got involved. Currier, a long-time advocate for prisoners, first met Glover 13 years ago. During the COVID pandemic, the two reconnected when Currier received a grant to give small sums of money to men behind bars, and Glover was a recipient. Glover told Currier his story, his concerns that he had an all-White jury, and his belief that the judge was racist.
“It was such a classic case of a Black kid being sucked into the cradle-to-prison pipeline,” Currier said. “I couldn’t walk away from his situation.”
Currier began tracking down and contacting the jurors in Glover’s case. As she spoke with jurors, she hit on a startling admission. One juror told Currier that she was prejudiced against Black men at the time and had made that clear during jury selection. But she said the judge, Essex County Judge John L. Murphy, reassured her that she could be seated.
That jarring account prompted Currier and Glover to review the court transcript from the jury selection phase of the trial. In it, they found a remarkable exchange involving the juror Currier had spoken with:
“Potential juror: ‘I just want to tell you we own a small mom-and-pop store…It is in a White community and a few months ago we had a couple of Black men come into the store and right away I was suspicious and I ended up calling the police because they kept casing the store. They did end up getting arrested for stealing a car. I just want you to know how I feel when I see a Black person in the store. I get nervous and suspicious. I don’t know if that makes me prejudiced or not.’
Judge: ‘We don’t have a store involved here, do we?…All we ask of a juror is whether or not they can listen to the evidence impartially and fairly…Do you think you can do that?’
Juror: ‘Well, I would hope so.”
Judge: ‘We all have feelings, but we have to leave those aside when we sit as a juror.’
Juror: ‘I will try to be fair.’”
That juror was seated.
She was not the only juror in the pool to express racist sentiments. One emergency room nurse said when robbery or gunshot wound victims come into the hospital, “we always say, it must be a Black that did it.” The nurse said the defendant’s color remains “in the back of my mind.” Murphy reassured her, “We all have thoughts in the back of our minds,” and let her remain in the jury pool, although she was not selected for the jury.
The trial went forward with an all-White jury over the objection of Glover’s then-attorney, Hugh Samson.
The store owner who was seated on the jury despite sharing with the judge her own concerns about harboring racial bias, a White woman who is now 72, spoke to CommonWealth on condition of anonymity out of fear for her safety if her name was published. The woman admitted that she was prejudiced at the time, having grown up in a small Essex County town just south of the New Hampshire border, with no Black families that she knew of.
She said Glover’s trial has stuck in her memory all these years. “I was never happy with the outcome,” she said. She felt that the judge dismissed her admission of prejudice and didn’t fully answer the jury’s questions during deliberations. She says she also felt pressured by the men on the jury to go along with a guilty verdict.
Samson, a now-retired attorney who was recently charged with disorderly conduct for causing a disruption at the Massachusetts Republican Party headquarters, acknowledged his own mistakes in representing Glover, but he also accused Murphy, the trial judge, who died in 2007, of racism. In an affidavit that Currier submitted to the court, she wrote that Samson told her that he heard Murphy mock Martin Luther King Day in a courtroom lobby twice by calling it “James Earl Ray Day” — a reference to the man convicted of King’s assassination — and “Jungle Bunny Day.” Samson confirmed that recollection in an interview with CommonWealth.
Samson said both he and the district attorney “failed to adequately counteract the racism of the judge.” Samson admits that he personally saw Glover as a “tough” kid. “It did seem like a showdown between two marauders,” Samson said of the knifing death Glover was charged with. Samson said he realized afterwards that he should have done a better job investigating a potential mental health issue in the case and also challenging Murphy. “I am disappointed in myself that I went along with the stereotypes, and I did not do an adequate job of investigating,” Samson said.
There is also an odd moment recorded in the transcript, which Glover and Currier suggest is evidence of racism, in which the judge told the attorneys during a bench conference, a private discussion that is not conducted in open court, that he had information that Glover “is a problem.” Murphy added: “If he starts raising hell, I will chain him to the rail there on the other side.”
DA AGREES TO A DEAL
In October, Glover submitted a fifth motion for a new trial on the basis that his trial contained a racially biased juror, and that Murphy erred in not dismissing the juror. The motion quoted the store owner juror’s comments and the racist statements made by others in the jury pool.
Leovich argued that the store owner should not have been allowed on the jury. “Juror Number 9 was clearly biased and should never have been allowed to adjudge a Black man at a criminal trial,” Leovich wrote in the motion. “That the Court failed to remove her is a clear structural error and an abuse of discretion of constitutional magnitude and requires reversal of the judgement in this matter.”
Rather than continuing to pursue the case, prosecutors from the Essex district attorney’s office reached an agreement with Glover. He agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and accept the maximum 20-year sentence, which was time he had already served since he had been in jail for 30 years.
The prosecutor in the case filed a court brief that seemed to carry a mixed message, arguing that the conviction was justified, but saying he is willing to release Glover at this point after reviewing the jury selection issue. Essex Assistant District Attorney David O’Sullivan wrote in a court filing that he continues to believe that Glover’s conviction was “well-supported” and “it does not appear that justice miscarried.”
“Nevertheless, in light of all the circumstances, including the length of time the defendant already has served and the jury selection practices utilized by the trial judge, the district attorney supports the proposed resolution,” O’Sullivan wrote.
Glover still had a Suffolk County sentence hanging over him from the earlier assault conviction. His parole was revoked after he was charged with murder, but the warrant requiring him to complete the Suffolk County sentence was set to be served only after he completed his Essex County sentence. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Mary Ames, at Glover’s request and with the agreement of prosecutors from Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden’s office, agreed to credit the time he served above 20 years to the assault charges. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys acknowledged that Glover served nearly 11 years of “dead time” that could have been credited toward his Suffolk County sentence if not for a technicality that the parole warrant had not yet been served. Ames signed an order releasing him on May 4.
Currier sees the case as a “shameful” indictment of the justice system – the jury, the judge, and Glover’s former lawyers. Currier said Glover had multiple lawyers who missed the issue of jury racism. “It took me four minutes and I’m a layperson to see [the juror] shouldn’t have been sat,” Currier said. “It shows you how normalized racism is that they said no, it’s not an issue.”
Samson handled the case as a private attorney appointed to represent an indigent client through the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state public defender’s office. Attorneys working directly for CPCS handled two of Glover’s appeals, including one which went up to the SJC. Bob McGovern, a spokesperson for CPCS, said CPCS attorneys declined to pursue the issue of jury bias because they did not think the strategy would be successful.
Instead, Currier contacted Leovich, a private attorney who took the case pro bono at Currier and Glover’s request.
McGovern said in an email that CPCS “spent considerable time fighting for Mr. Glover” and takes “great pride in the quality of representation” it provides in post-conviction cases. “We are thrilled by the defendant’s success in this case and appreciate the Essex DA’s willingness to look at Mr. Glover’s case in a global way, taking into consideration the lengthy prison sentence that he has already served, his young age at the time of the crime, and the troubling racially biased atmosphere in which his trial took place,” McGovern said.
Now that he is free, Glover said, he is “trying to enjoy looking at the breeze and the trees and trying to get reacclimated to my transition back home.”
Pacc Global, an organization run by Jamal Gooding that assists formerly incarcerated people, helped Glover obtain housing, employment, mental health counseling, a cell phone, and other services. Glover lives in a reentry facility for people recently released from prison. He spends weekdays in Brockton where he works for a company that sets up tents for events. On weekends, he lives in Boston, where he has family members who are helping him, including a sister and a niece. He is working on getting proper rest, knowing he won’t be woken up for a prisoner count, a daily early-morning ritual of his life for more than three decades.
“I’m a lot older, I’m a lot wiser, I have a prosocial approach to life now,” Glover says. “Being taken away for so long, your values switch…the lick of a puppy means so much more than it did before my incarceration, a simple hug from your loved one is so much more profound.”
Glover says he feels happy and blessed to be free. But he remains unhappy with how his case concluded, and he is considering filing a civil lawsuit. The plea deal means Glover is not eligible for compensation from the state because his case is not considered a wrongful conviction. Though he took the plea to get out of prison, Glover sees that as another example of systemic racism.
“[The district attorney] didn’t say to me the reason we’re letting you go home is because the system wronged you,” Glover said. “The justice system needs to be held accountable for these wrongful convictions.”Glover still maintains that what he did was not criminal, because he acted in self-defense. “I don’t believe I was guilty of anything but racism that was inflicted upon me. That’s what I think the whole conviction was about, and I can prove it,” he said.
Men in prison helped Glover research his case, and he now plans to return the favor from the outside. Glover said he intends to be a voice for other men still behind bars who he believes were harmed by racism at their trials, beginning by sharing his story publicly. “I’m going to be their advocate and a voice for those men,” Glover said. “I’m the voice for the voiceless. I know what they’re up against. I’m going to go as hard as I can to help these men, and this is the beginning of that.”