BOSTON — As selectmen were in executive session, the result of a court-ordered mediation, a group of lawyers also met behind closed doors Monday night as the town of Ayer tries to determine a strategy in defending itself against a wrongful-conviction lawsuit.
The outcome of the mediation effort was not immediately known Monday night.
It comes just a week before the scheduled start in U.S. District Court of the trial against the town filed by the estate of the late Kenneth Waters.
Waters was convicted in the 1980 murder of Katharine Brow, who was found stabbed to death in her Rosewood Avenue mobile home. He served nearly 20 years in prison, but DNA evidence later cleared him, and he was released on March 13, 2001.
Waters died at age 47 about six months later after suffering a skull fracture after falling off a 15-foot wall.
The administratrix of Waters’ estate, his sister, Betty Anne Waters, is suing the town and former police employees for her brother’s wrongful conviction. The estate is seeking an unspecified sum in compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys fees. The town’s alleged wrongdoing is with regard to “reckless, bad-faith and/or malicious acts, misdeeds or omissions” that lead to her brother’s conviction.
A special Ayer Board of Selectmen meeting, scheduled for noon, started at 2 p.m. Monday when Selectman Gary Luca arrived to form a quorum with colleagues Jim Fay and Carolyn McCreary. Five minutes later, Chairman Connie Sullivan arrived. Selectmen then voted unanimously to enter into executive session.
Selectmen were to choose between proceeding to trial as scheduled next Monday, or settling with the Waters estate.
Ayer’s lead town counsel, Mark Reich of Kopelman and Paige, said yesterday that selectmen would be deciding during executive session whether or not to release a statement on the outcome of Monday’s mediation session. But as of 8 p.m., the executive session was still going, according to Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski.
Meanwhile, side negotiations took place in other rooms with insurance companies that the town argues are obligated to foot the town’s legal bill and cover any financial exposure in the Waters matter.
Andover firm Gilbert & Renton was present yesterday to aid the town in its battle to force up to four insurance companies to indemnify Ayer on the Waters case costs.