Archive for January, 2010

JoAnn Wypijewski on the Terrible Shanley Decision

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

Our good friend JoAnn Wypijewski has written a wonderful article about the recent disgraceful ruling by the cadre of Martha Coakley fans who make up the Supreme Judicial Court here in repressed-memory land.

This is a must read. Pass it on!

-Bob Chatelle

Defense and Appellate Attorneys

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I am often contacted by people looking for defense and/or appellate lawyers. While I know quite a few, my list is too small. In many states, I strike out completely. For example, I recently received a troubling request from Oklahoma, where I know no one at all.

I am looking for names to add to my attorney list. This is a private list and will not be published. I am most interested in finding lawyers who know the issues around false accusations of harm, sexual or otherwise, to children, especially the problems with coercive interviewing and the reliability of recovered repressed memories of traumatic events. Or at least attorneys willing to do the work of learning about these issues.

If you know such a lawyer to recommend, please email me at In addition to the contact information for the attorney, it would be helpful if you could tell me a bit about why you are recommending him or her.

Thanks for the help!

-Bob Chatelle

Poisonous Massachusetts

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

A week ago today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in the Paul Shanley case, ruled that the theory of repressed memory has scientific validity in Massachusetts.

Today I was sent a link to this disturbing news story.

I don’t know for sure that the Indiana judge had read the Massachusetts decision, but I would put money on it.

Thus the floodgates have been opened, not just here in Massachusetts but all over the country.

One can only hope that eventually the U.S. Supreme Court will put an end to the nonsense.

-Bob Chatelle

Some Thoughts About the Coakley Defeat

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

Many old and dear friends have been very sad and angry these past few days. And many are angry with me for my refusal to vote for Martha Coakley. I have of course been defriended on Facebook and I have lost subscribers to this blog. Others I have directly encountered have just been uncomfortable in my presence. We have usually avoided discussing the election.

I think I can honestly say that I know how these good friends feel. All I have to do is remember how I felt last December 8th, when Coakley won the Democratic primary. She won with less than half of the votes cast. She received only the votes of seven and a half percent of registered Massachusetts voters. But I, like many others, assumed that the final election would be no more than a formality. I thought that Coakley would continue to be a major influence on political thinking, not only in Massachusetts but nationally.

I have been especially pained by the accusation that I don’t care about health care. I believe some who make this accusation have never had to do without health insurance because they couldn’t afford it. Jim D’Entremont and I have. We could not have done the work we have done these past dozen years — for Bernard Baran and others — had we held down full-time jobs. There were times when we tried to insure ourselves. But eventually, we realized that one of us had to drop out. A month or two later, the other would follow. There were times when we needed medical attention and just didn’t get it.

A few years ago, Massachusetts adopted a plan of increasing coverage by fining those who did not buy health insurance. Those who couldn’t afford the premiums supposedly would receive subsidies from the state. An inefficient (and often rude) bureaucracy was created to determine who got the subsidies and the amount. The forms one had to fill out were horrendous. And somehow, they never seemed to be correct. After weeks of dealing with nasty people on the phone, we finally thought we’d filled Jim’s form out correctly. Unfortunately, they lost that form and we had to start over. I finally gave up on the plan and waited for Medicare. Jim was granted a tiny subsidy. When Jim eventually told his doctor that he couldn’t see him any more because he had to drop his insurance, the doctor referred him to someone who knew how to get around the bureaucracy and get him the coverage he needed at a price he could afford.

Bernard Baran and his partner are battling the bureaucracy right now. Neither of them are working. Bee can’t work and David is a seasonal employee. But the bureaucracy doesn’t want to listen to them.

When Obama was elected, my fear was that he was going to model a national plan on Massachusetts. I am not sorry that he has been forced back to the drawing board. Of course, the problem may not be soluble because there are so many powerful interests who benefit from the system as it exists. Not all problems can be solved. Not all disasters can be avoided. But we can at least hope that politicians can put aside partisan differences and try to find a solution.

Obama is not doomed to failure because of the loss of a Senate seat. Previous presidents of both parties have governed effectively without a majority in the House of Representatives and 60 votes in the Senate. I for one am relieved that Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson have been stripped of their veto power — a power they both relished using. If I had wanted Joe Lieberman as my president I would have voted for him.

I hope that the defeat of Martha Coakley will at least diminish the influence of the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office on Massachusetts politics.

Scott Harshbarger was elected District Attorney of Middlesex County in 1982. He was succeeded by Thomas Reilly, his first assistant. And Reilly was succeeded by their protege, Martha Coakley. All three made a big name for themselves by winning convictions of people who are almost certainly innocent: Violet, Cheryl and Gerald Amitault; Ray and Shirley Souza; Louise Woodward; Paul Shanley; and others. All three have consistently and stubbornly refused to admit that they might have made any mistakes. All three have been backed to the hilt by New England’s paper of record, the Boston Globe. In other states, politicians and judges have realized that the coercive questioning of small children creates unreliable evidence. In other states, politicians and judges have realized that there is no scientific basis for the theory of repressed memory of traumatic events. In other states, measures have been taken to exclude junk science from the courtroom. But not in Massachusetts because of the poisonous influence of the Middlesex County DA’s office and its powerful cheering section.

Harshbarger, Reilly, and Coakley all moved up (with no serious opposition) to the office of Attorney General, where they continued to fight to preserve the power of prosecutors. For all three, the Attorney General’s office was supposed to be but a stepping stone to greater power. But the strategy didn’t work. Harshbarger and Reilly ran for governor — and lost. And now Coakley has lost — in a spectacular and humiliating fashion — her bid to become a U.S. Senator.

I think the Massachusetts Democratic party will be better off with the diminished influence of these three  ruthless and ambitious politicians.

I also hope that one result of this election might be the diminished impact of identity politics, both here in Massachusetts and nationally. I have voted for many women and expect to do so in the future. But a candidate’s gender has never determined my vote. Neither has their race or their sexual orientation. If you vote for someone because of their gender or race you are also voting against someone for the same reason. Yes, we should have more women in public office. But to achieve that we need to run first-rate candidates.

Again, I take no pleasure in seeing good friends in pain, especially in a pain that I understand because I have so often felt it. But I also know from experience that this kind of pain eventually diminishes and, when it does, one can more rationally assess what went wrong and how we can work to make things go right in the future.

I know this election was especially difficult for those who follow this blog because you know much more about Coakley’s history than did the average voter. While I posted much about Coakley I could not bring myself to support Scott Brown or urge you to vote for him. But now that he represents Massachusetts, let us hope that he will in fact represent Massachusetts. For all of my complaints about the state (or at least its politicians) a great many good, decent, and thoughtful people live here. Some of them voted for Martha Coakley. That doesn’t lessen my affection and respect for them. I hope we can continue to work together for justice.


Please Sign This Petition

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have been a regular visitor to Massachusetts prisons for over a dozen years. I believe nothing is more important to a prisoner and nothing more improves a prisoner’s chances of success in society than support and contact, especially face-to-face contact, with those of us fortunate enough to live beyond the walls.

Currently there are too many, not too few, restrictions. Measures such as those proposed serve no purpose other than permitting law-and-order posturing on the part of the governor and other elected officials. We must not fall for it.

Therefore, I would be grateful to those who will sign and forward this petition.

-Bob Chatelle

A Defeat for Martha Coakley

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Dear Fiend of Justice,

The Michael O’Laughlin case is over.


The Big Picture

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

Over the past few days I have received many email messages imploring me to see “the big picture,” to hold my nose, and to vote for Martha Coakley.

I can’t do that. The issue is just too personal for me.

I still go into prisons. I still correspond with prisoners. I still speak with prisoners on the telephone.

And I’ve come to know the people who love them: their spouses, their children, their parents, their friends.

The pain and suffering caused by Martha Coakley and her ilk is beyond measure.

I cannot say to these people: “I am sorry but I must vote for someone who built her career on injustice. I must look at ‘the big picture.’ And in ‘the big picture,’ little people like you just don’t matter.”

Has my personal involvement in these cases affected my judgment?

I certainly hope so.

Those of you who don’t personally know any prisoners or their families have the luxury of looking at “the big picture.”

I do not. I hope some of you can understand.


One Final Coakley Post

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have received many emails from good friends telling me why they will be voting for Martha Coakley tomorrow. I respect you and I respect your reasons.

I also respect those of you who will be voting for Scott Brown, Joseph Kennedy, or a write-in candidate. And I respect those of you who have decided to just stay home.

This is a difficult election. All we can do is cast — or not cast — our ballots thoughtfully.

The following excerpt from the document Frank Kane sent me concerns Coakley’s actions as Attorney General. It demonstrates that Coakley is firmly on the side of prosecutorial power and has little concern for the rights of defendants. But our courts are not level playing fields. While prosecutors are supposed to bear the burden of proof, it has now de facto become necessary for defendants to prove themselves innocent beyond doubt. Prosecutors are paid by the government as are any expert witnesses they use. Defendants must either raise enormous amounts of money — sometimes hundreds of thousdands of dollars — or rely on underpaid and overworked public defenders. And once a conviction occurs, it is next to impossible to have it reversed.

I find most troubling Coakley’s advocacy (in the name of the people of Massachusetts) for total prosecutorial immunity, even in cases where they deliberately frame innocent people. One reason we see so much injustice in our court system is that prosecutors have carte blanche and know they will not be held accountable for their misdeeds.

I will be so happy when this election is behind us. Here is the excerpt from Frank’s report:


Coakley Signs On To Amicus Curiae Brief re Death Penalty and States’ Rights

On November 6, 2009, the Boston Globe published an article, titled, Death penalty foes rip Coakley for signing brief, citing facts in the case which involves an Alabama man, a convicted murderer.  The man, Holly Wood, has appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds his state-appointed lawyer failed to introduce crucial evidence that he, Mr. Wood, is mentally retarded.

Attorney General Coaikley, who says she is firmly against capital punishment, has drawn the ire of some death penalty opponents by urging the U.S. Supreme Court to limit federal review of state court decisions, which opponents say could make it harder for defendants on death row to challenge their sentences.

Coakley, along with 18 other states’ attorneys general, signed a friend-of-the court brief in September, 2009, asking that the nation’s highest court maintain restrictions on intervention by federal courts.  Death penalty opponents say if Coakley’s arguments prevail it could be more difficult for federal courts to overturn death sentences, as well as other criminal punishmnents, handed down in state courts.

“There’s no way this kid should be killed,” said Stephen B. Bright, president and senior counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights, who also teaches at Yale and Georgetown Law schools.  “At the end of the day, if Alabama wins, this kid with an IQ in the 60s will be executed.”

Coakley and her aides argue that her signing the brief had nothing to do with the death penalty and that they were purely concerned with the legal implications of allowing federal courts more discretion in reviewing decisions that state courts have already made, which Coakley asserts would take additional time, money, and resources..

Coakley said that the brief she signed, though it is attached to a death penalty case, is limited in scope and is designed to address only the question of what role the federal courts should have in reviewing state court decisions.  She says the brief makes no mention of capital punishment.

“It’s definitely a death penalty case,” said Kerry Scanlon, Wood’s lawyer, “I was surprised to see that Massachusetts had signed onto this brief.”

At issue is the interpretation of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which in most instances bars federal reconsideration of legal and factual issues on which state courts have already ruled.  A Supreme Court ruling in Alabama’s favor could result in federal courts having to defer to state judgments in many instances.  Death penalty cases from the states are among those frequently challenged in federal court.

“If you’re concerned about the death penalty, than you have to be concerned about people being able to have their case reviewed in federal court,” said Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama.  “The error rate, in my judgment, is shockingly high, so high that you want federal courts to be able to review these cases without a lot of restrictions.”

“In this case,” Stevenson added, “Mr. Wood will be executed in a matter of weeks….It is not theoretical in Alabama.”

In their brief, Coakley and other states that signed onto it argued that the decisions already made by state courts should not be over-ridden.  The brief states, in part, “States have the obligation to protect the finality of the judgments entered by their courts—–an obligation that is even more compelling when it involves criminal judgments.  Undoing finality in habeas corpus litigation in the federal courts can undermine the states’ interests in ensuring safety, deterring crime, and rehabilitating criminal offenders.”

[Note:  There’s that word again;—Finality.  Now, if only the states were infallibly correct in their investigations and trials, their convictions and rulings, and only guilty folks were ever found guilty, we wouldn’t  need any oversight, would we?  But that doesn’t appear to be so, not by a long shot.]


Amicus against Two Iowa Men

Martha Coakley also joined in an amicus brief that advocates for total immunity for prosecutors in a case of two African American men from Iowa, having spent 25 years of their lives in prison, who’d been appealing their unjust conviction on the grounds they’d been framed by prosecutors for a murder they did not commit.  In November, 2009, the case was before the U.S. Supreme Court.


Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court against Accused’s Rights to Question Forensics

On November 10, 2008, Martha Coakley, as Atorney General, argued before the Court that requiring forensics scientists to testify at criminal trials where their reports are presented as evidence would place an undue burden on the state’s already-backlogged drug testing system.

The case centers on whether a defendant’s Sixth Amendment Right to confront witnesses against him applies to the admission of drug analysis certificates as evidence at criminal trials.  If it does, the analysts who prepare the reports could be required to provide live testimony in court.

The Justices pointed to California’s system, in which drug analysis certificates can be admitted as evidence only if the analyst who prepares the report testifies, or if the defense stipulates that the reports can be admitted without testimony.  When asked why Massachusetts couldn’t function under a similar system, Coakley said she was not familiar enough with the California system.

On June 6, 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to cross-examine forensic experts who prepare laboratory reports on illegal drugs and other scientific evidence used at trial.

The Innocence Project, a national advocacy group that has used DNA evidence to exonerate 240 convicted criminals, hailed the decision, which applies to state and federal courts across the country.  The group said that faulty forensic science contributed to about half of the wrongful convictions the organization has helped to reverse.

Coakley was criticized for her poor showing before the Court, from her trouble dealing with the question regarding California’s system and two other justices’ questions over distinctions between crime lab reports and eyewitness testimony.

She asserted that her performance has no bearing on her ability to advocate for Massachusetts in the Senate.

Psychology Today Article About the Shanley Decision

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

You might find interesting this article by Jean Mercer on the Psychology Today website.

-Bob Chatelle

Another Martha Coakley Priest Case — Father Paul Manning

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have received quite a number of emails these past few days from readers of this blog. Many more of you almost certainly share the concerns of those who have contacted me. So I will try to clarify a few points.

First of all, I will not be posting a 15.500 word document. What I will do, when it is ready, is upload it as a file. When I do so I will post a short summary. Those who wish can read all or part of the complete document. In any case, it will be available in the future as a reference document. Remember, if  Coakley wins on Tuesday she isn’t going to settle for just being a Senator.

I will post two or three more excerpts from Frank’s draft, all shorter than the Souza segment.

The other main question I find much harder to answer: What impact do I want to have on the election?

(Of course I realize that I am powerless to have much of an impact, one way or another.)

It’s hard to answer beause I don’t know what I’m going to do on Tuesday. I may not know until I get into the voting booth. (In any case, I won’t vote for Coakley.)

After she won the primary, I decided to post no more about Coakley until after the election. I considered her a shoo-in and had more important things to do than waste ammunition on her. But the saturation coverage of the race caused me to break that vow. And then the Shanley decision made me really, really angry. My anger is not just at Coakley. I am angry at  that whole gang of witch hunters who have done so much damage to justice — and to people I care deeply about.  I am angry at the Boston Globe (and to a lesser degree, the Boston Phoenix) for spreading so much harmful misinformation. And I am angry at the Massachusetts Democratic party for capitalizing on the nonsense. True, some (like former Attorney General James Shannon) have had the courage to speak out. But far too few.

Many have emailed me asking me to vote for Coakley to “save health care.” I care deeply about health care. For most of the many years my partner Jim and I were battling to free Bernard Baran (and others) we went without health insurance because we just couldn’t afford it. There were several times when we needed medical care and didn’t get it because we had no insurance. (Thankfully, most things get better on their own.) Now we are on Medicare.

I am not a tea-bagger. But I have serious reservations about the health-care bill now before Congress. This blog is not the appropriate forum to discuss them. But anyone is free to email me.

I went on much longer than I had planned. Here’s Frank Kane on the Manning case:

Rev. Paul Manning Case:

In 1994, Martha Coakley prosecuted the case of Rev. Paul Manning for allegedly molesting an 11 year-old altar boy, who, after leaving a police interrogation, in which he supposedly disclosed “something,” immediately retracted what he said he’d been coerced to say. Nonetheless, Coakley went forward with the trial, relying on the testimony of Fr. Manning’s pastor and, what, circumstantial evidence? Unlike other cases against Catholic priests, not one other person, adult or child, came forward to join in the prosecution. The trial ended in an acquittal, which Coakley decried, loudly and often, even on Dateline,a national television program, had been a disgrace.

In a March 12,1998 op-ed piece, titled, Would-be District Attorney finding bad case comes home to roost, regarding Coakley’s upcoming D.A. election bid, here’s what a well-respected journalist, Paul Sullivan, said in the Lowell Sun:

It’s always heart-warming to see someone who has achieved something giving credit to that special person who influenced him or her. Often, that special person is a man of God–a priest, a rabbi, or minister, who might bring a kid to the beach, offer financial asistance to a fatherless family in need of rent money, or simply take a kid to the movies. By the standards of most of us, these would be acts of charity. Martha Coakley, a candidate for Middlesex district attorney, sees it as “unusual” behavior, possible evidence that a person is a child molester. She is the assistant D.A.who prosecuted the Rev. Paul Manning in 1994 on a child molestation charge.

Manning, who formerly served in Lowell, is a popular fellow, said to have never refused a    kid in need. By some lights, he’s a real Father Flanagan. By Coakley’s standards, he’s a suspect. In fairness to Coakley, bringing people to justice is not a job for people looking to win a popularity contest. Sometimes, justice is not easy. But Coakley, who is well known for her role in trying to put Louise Woodward in jail for life, seems to have her work cut out for her–at leaast in Lowell–when it comes to explaining the Manning case. Even if she can convince someone that charging Manning with molestation was a good idea–though the supposed victim said it never happened–the general rule is that when someone is accused of this stuff, other victims come forward in droves. In Manning’s case, just the opposite happened. In Manning’s case, hundreds of young people he helped over the years came forward to say he was not capable of such behavior.

Coakley must explain why, after the jury found Manning innocent, she went on national television to again try to convince the public that Manning was guilty. It’s peculiar behavior from Coakley, who in the Woodward case says that Judge Hiller Zobel should not have second-guessed the jury. Coakley’s behavior might have some political ramifications. When she travels around Lowell in her quest for political support, as she did yesterday, she will run into people who were quite interested in the Manning case.

Like Lowell Mayor Eileen Donoghue, who was Manning’s lawyer and zealous defender. For her, it was more than just a client she was defending; it was a mission of justice. She was outraged that Manning had to defend himself not just in the court, but on TV, from Coakley’s broadsides. Or City Councilor Grady Mulligan, or City Manager Brian Martin–two city officials who were willing to put their reputations on the line and testify for Manning. That’s not something people are generally willing to do in child molestation   cases.

To put this issue in context, in the introduction of the post-trial TV piece The Sin of the Father, by NBC’s Stone Phillips and Jane Pauley, there were references to the anti-Catholic priest hysteria evident at the time. That was when the molestation trial of the Rev. James Porter of the Fall River area was still vey much in the public memory, along with many other high-profile cases. The public will have a chance to determine whether Coakley fed the hysteria and attempted to add a priest’s pelt to her prosecutorial belt.

In this rare case, the public will, like a jury, have a chance to weigh in on Coakley’s actions. At the voting booth.