Archive for October, 2014

Martha Coakley Comes With A ‘Must Read’ Warning Label

Monday, October 27th, 2014

“As Middlesex district attorney and attorney general, Martha Coakley has been an aggressive prosecutor who too often has put the needs of the commonwealth above the rights of the people, and rarely corrects miscarriages of justice. Her overreaching decisions are more often than not overruled by clearer heads.”

This commentary, at the WGBH web site,is by Sue O’Connell, co-publisher of Bay Windows, Boston’s gay and lesbian weekly.

The Return of Moral Panic–Ross Cheit’s book reviewed

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

“Is Cheit’s revisionism convincing? Much of his analysis, especially of the McMartin and Michaels cases—which take up more than a third of the book—relies on materials to which the reader does not have ready access, such as trial transcripts, investigation records, and author interviews. Thus, whether the book succeeds in making a dent in the witch-hunt narrative depends, to put it bluntly, on whether we can trust Cheit to give a fair and accurate account of this material. A close look reveals enough evasions, highly tendentious interpretations, and verifiable inaccuracies to conclude that we cannot.”

Cathy Young in Reason magazine.

The “Sex Offender” Regime is Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

“As a feminist, I’m not happy about the equation of masculinity with sexually tinged sadism or the stoicism to withstand it. But answering personal violence with state-sanctioned violence won’t make anyone any less violent.

“For kids, it’s just as likely to make them angrier, less empathetic, and stripped of hope.”

By Judith Levine, in Counterpunch

Coakley And The Massachusetts Governorship

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Coakley’s career as a prosecutor, and the careers of other prosecutors who seek to leverage their convictions to achieve higher office, deserve close scrutiny. If prosecutors seek to leverage their criminal justice convictions into higher elective office, examination of those convictions would seem to be fair game.

Martha Coakley, stop lauding bad science

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

“Indeed, Coakley nearly sending a young, innocent woman to prison is nothing to be proud of. It is certainly not worthy of a photo shoot in a political election.”

When miscarriages of justice occur, prosecutors must answer for actions

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

“Looking back at the case would serve a bigger purpose than score-settling. Wrongful convictions like that of Baran endanger trust in the whole judicial system. The Supreme Judicial Court, in its role as the general safeguard of the integrity of the courts, should launch a special inquiry into how justice failed during the hysteria of the 1980s. It must also look at why the Berkshire County district attorney was able to conceal the tapes for so long after the trial, even claiming the tapes were lost. (The tapes only surfaced after Downing died.) That’s also a question that the next state attorney general may want to ask, while also moving to finally expunge Baran’s criminal record.”

Please Don’t Vote for Martha Coakley

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Massachusetts voters, if you care about justice, please don’t vote for Martha Coakley. If you care about the plight of the poor and minorities, please don’t vote for Martha Coakley.

There is no hope for criminal-justice reform under Governor Coakley. Here in Massachusetts, we have had many wrongful convictions. To lessen such tragedies in the future, we are in need of criminal-justice reform.

For example, to quote Harvey Silverglate in a recent Boston Globe article:

“Massachusetts still has not reformed its discovery rules to prevent convictions achieved through suppression of exculpatory evidence. Our justice system cannot rely on what is effectively a prosecutor’s honor code. An “open file discovery” policy — in which prosecutors share all files with defense counsel — must be implemented. Furthermore, prosecutors who commit these violations should pay for, rather than benefit from, their actions.”

If prosecutors deliberately break the law, they should be held accountable for their actions. They should not be granted absolute immunity.

Far too much junk science is still admissible in Massachusetts courtrooms.

Criminal-justice reform should be supported by all reasonable and compassionate people.

Coakley, however, is a career prosecutor, immersed in a prosecutorial culture that believes that winning trumps justice and that prosecutors need the power to do whatever is necessary in order to win.

First of all, consider her role in the cases of several innocents wrongfully convicted of child sexual abuse. She prosecuted Ray and Shirley Souza. She fought to keep the Amiraults in prison. (See this article in the Wall Street Journal and this one in Metrowest Daily News.)

And don’t forget her hostility to the recently deceased Bernard Baran. He had to fight her office tooth-and-nail for compensation that was legally his, and had to settle for less than his due in order to avoid a costly court battle. Then insult was added to injury, when her office refused to expunge his criminal record.

Child sex abuse is a radioactive issue – even in cases where all rational observers agree that innocent people have been railroaded. You will never see any mention of these cases during a political campaign.

But even if Coakley had no involvement in these cases – and some others that are similar – I still wouldn’t vote for her.

She supports limiting the right of appeal for those facing the death penalty. For example, 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.

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 punishments, 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.”

Martha Coakley and the state of Alabama were victorious. Wood was executed.

She supports absolute prosecutorial immunity. 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, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee, who spent 25 years of their lives in prison, after they’d been framed by prosecutors for a murder they did not commit. They sued the crooked prosecutors and  Coakley signed an amicus opposing them their right to sue.  In November, 2009, the case was before the U.S. Supreme Court. But the lawsuit was settled, mooting the case. Coakley is a firm believer in absolute prosecutorial immunity — an immense obstacle to justice.

She supports abridging Sixth Amendment rights. On November 10, 2008, Martha Coakley, as Attorney General, argued before the Court in the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts 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.

Martha Coakley claims to care about protecting children. In my opinion, she cares much more about protecting unethical prosecutors.

The people most vulnerable to wrongful conviction are the poor and minorities – racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities. Because the Massachusetts criminal-justice system is so lopsided and unfairly in favors the prosecution, the poor and minorities will continue to be steamrollered if Coakley becomes governor. I am hopeful that there are enough voters concerned about morality and justice to prevent this from happening. Please don’t be a slave to blind party loyalty. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for a Republican, at least do a write-in or cast a blank ballot.

Exonerated man’s friends to recall life cut short

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

“No matter what they did to him, no matter what lies they told, he always came out on top,” Squires said Friday. “He never became a victim of his circumstances.”

Why is Daniel Ford still a Massachusetts judge?

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

“Yet as Baran was reportedly getting repeatedly sexually assaulted in prison, Downing was getting reelected and Ford was getting promoted. Just a few years after Baran’s conviction, Ford was appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court, where he presides over criminal cases. He has also served on a committee that determines state rules for criminal procedure. As Silverglate points out, not only has Ford never been disciplined, he has never been publicly investigated, nor has the state considered the reforms that could cut down on future wrongful convictions.”

Justice System Failed Bernard Baran

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

“Convicted amidst the national panic over supposed sexual abuse of preschool children, Baran fell victim to homophobia, hysteria, and arguable prosecutorial misconduct. While many now recognize these prosecutions as modern-day witch hunts, those responsible for his incarceration remain unapologetic and unpunished.”

I suspect the reason the transcript supporting Judge Ford’s version wasn’t turned over to the Appeals Court is that it doesn’t exist.