Archive for the ‘Martha Coakley’ Category

Baker can provide state ‘apology’ for Amirault

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

From Barbara Anderson:

“Charlie Baker’s father asked me several years ago if he could help; after we had lunch together, Charlie Sr. tried to find Gerald a job that wouldn’t require him to be near a school. Charlie Jr. met Gerald and one of his daughters on the campaign trail and assured them this will be one of the first things on his agenda. His opponent, Martha Coakley, was one of Gerald’s ambitious prosecutors, and I suspect many voters who know this story voted against her because of it.”

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.

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.”

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.

Liberals and Feminists, Stop Enabling the Police State

Friday, September 19th, 2014

“Baran was not truly vindicated when he died. Not in the eyes of the law, represented here by the Democrats’ foul hope for governor, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. Coakley had a chance, in 2007, to acknowledge the state’s grievous wrong against Baran, call off the local prosecutor’s effort to throw him back behind bars, and grant compensation. Instead, Baran endured years of waiting until 2009, when a court again ruled for him; and years of lacerating negotiations for compensation before Coakley conceded a pittance for his twenty-three lost years. She refused to expunge his record, forcing him to seek redress again from the courts, which would have broken him.”

Devastated and in Pain

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
photo credit: Jim D’Entremont

Last night Bernard (“Bee”) Baran died suddenly at his home while talking with his partner, David, and his niece, Crystal. We are awaiting the autopsy results, but a heart attack or stroke seems most likely.

My partner Jim and I were prodded to reach out to Baran and his family by our friend, Debbie Nathan, who emailed us on June 18, 1998. She said:

“I hope someone will be inspired to help Bernie Baran: as you know, he’s the first daycare worker convicted in a ritual abuse case — also out of Massachusetts — and the reason it started apparently is because he “came out” in his little town and announced his homosexuality at the age of 18. The guy has now been locked up 13 years and is going to rot behind bars unless someone takes an interest in his case. Now might be the time to start.”

By “someone,” Debbie quite obviously meant us. Reach out we did.

We phoned his mother, who sounded like someone who had lost all hope. But she gave us Bee’s address and we wrote to him.

No response. We wrote one more time and still no response. He seemed not to want to talk to us.

In December of 1998, Bee called and talked a long while with Jim. (I was in Minnesota for the Christmas holidays.) He said he would call back after my return but did not. We wrote again and still got no response. Finally, on March 3, 1999 we receive a letter from him. In it he explains why it’s been difficult for him to get back to us.

“I was talking to my mother last night and as we talked I started to cry. I just told her I don’t know how much longer I can hold on for. I have spent 15 years of my life locked away for something I never did and after a while you start to lose all hope. I tell you this because when I see your letter that’s what I start feeling is hope and it scares me.

“I don’t even know if I should have told you that but it’s the truth. At times Bob I feel so all alone. I also do believe people have tried to help me but life moves so fast out there that I seem to always get lost in the process. I’m not saying that you would do this to me. It’s just how it has gone so far. So I fear the hope others bring into my life because I’m always left alone in the pain. My heart can only take so much pain. I’m sure you know that a lot of pain comes from inside as well. I’m glad I started this letter to you. I have wrote to you maybe 10 times already, I just never mailed them out. And believe me this one’s going.”

A couple weeks later, by chance, Jim and I encounter a lawyer friend, John Swomley. Swomley suggests a visit to Bee. I go with John and meet Bee face to face on June 3rd. And our journey with Bee really began.

Swomley eventually agreed to take the case — on the condition we raise money because he couldn’t afford to do it pro bono. And raise money we did — hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the process we first formed the Bernard Justice Committee and later helped form the National Center for Reason and Justice, devoted to helping other victims of our dysfunctional criminal-justice system.

We also began visiting Bee every week. Eventually our friend Frank Kane joined us on these visits. Bee was a delight to visit. Once we all got over our initial shyness, we discovered a young man (he’d just turned 32 when I met him) who was not only very bright, but very funny. He was a great story teller, and he would voice not only all of the characters in the story but any animals that were involved. One of my favorites involved the time he surrepitiousy fed a tray of meat juices to a vegetarian dog.

And so time passed. Slowly. The District Attorney stonewalled us every inch of the way. For many years the DA’s office refused to turn over the videotapes that eventually exonerated him. It was seven years later — June of 2006 — that Bee was finally released upon being granted a new-trial motion. The DA continued to fight us for three more years until the Appeals Court handed down a ruling that essentially exonerated Bee and strongly hinted that the DA — now Judge Daniel Ford — was guilty of prosecutorial misconduct. (Judges rarely slap the hands of other judges.) DA David Capeless finally threw in the towel.

Bee’s struggles continued. He filed a lawsuit against the firm that had done his do-nothing appeal and eventually settled for an undisclosed sum. He should have received $500,000 from the state, but Attorney General Martha Coakley had the audacity to try to deny him any compensation. (Coakley is from western Massachusetts and has close ties to the people who railroaded Bee, including her cousin, a Pittsfield detective. Bee was in the process of suing the detective when he committed suicide after he himself was convicted of rape.) Bee eventually collected $400,000.

Bee, by the way, was still fighting Coakley when he died. He’d been told that as part of the settlement his criminal record would be expunged. Coakley refused to go along. If she didn’t have a heart of ice, she could agree to the expungement now that Bee is gone. But I am quite sure she will not.

With his settlement, Bee and his partner David bought a lovely house in Fitchburg and also another building containing 5 rental units.

Both Bee and David, unfortunately, had suffered severe health problems due to the years of terrible prison diet and lack of access to anything resembling adequate health care. (Such are Massachusetts prisons.) Bee developed chronic pancreatitus, which often caused him enormous pain.

The last time Jim and I saw Bee was two weeks ago yesterday, when we visited with our friend Robert from North Carolina. We spent the day with them and had a great time. Bee cooked us two excellent meals. We spent the afternoon exploring Fitchburg and a lovely park nearby that they were both fond of.

While I’ve never been a parent, I think I can say with some justification that Bee was like a son to us. We certainly loved him like a son. And I know that he loved us.

So farewell Bee. You were a wonderful person. I hope we can learn from your sufferings and prevent other innocents from being persecuted as you were.

Ten Reasons I Won’t Vote for Martha Coakley

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

While at the Middlesex DA’s office:

  • She prosecuted (using questionable tactics) two grandparents, Ray and Shirley Souza, falsely accused of abusing their grandchildren. Evidence in the case is now known to be unreliable, but Coakley stands by the conviction.
  • She overcharged Louise Woodward, a nanny accused of murdering a child in her care. The medical evidence was weak and highly flawed, but conviction is easy when a child has died. Coakley secured the conviction, but the judge changed the verdict to manslaughter and sentenced Woodward to time served. Coakley’s main expert has since recanted his testimony, but Coakley still touts the case as a major victory.
  • After the parole board unanimously recommended commutation of his sentence, Coakley orchestrated a disinformation campaign and successfully lobbied a weak governor (Jane Swift) to keep Gerald Amirault in prison until the parole board was able to release him two years later without executive interference.
  • She obstructed the release of innocent men subsequently freed on DNA evidence.

As Massachusetts Attorney General

  • She signed an amicus brief supporting the execution of a Georgia man with an IQ of 60.
  • She advocated for total immunity for prosecutors who framed two innocent African Americans in Iowa for a murder they did not commit.
  • She argued (albeit ineptly) in the US Supreme Court in support of a law that unconstitutionally infringed the Sixth Amendment rights of defendants.
  • She helped draft an anti-obscenity law that was invalidated by a federal judge that stated that it “without question” violated the First Amendment.
  • She tried to deny compensation to Bernard Baran — an innocent victim of homophobic hysteria — and eventually forced him to accept less than was his due. Coakley is still fighting Baran — who was exonerated by the Appeals Court and eventually compensated by the state as a wrongfully convicted person — opposing his reasonable request to have his record expunged.

Finally and Perhaps Most Importantly

  • Voters, unfortunately, have little concern about injustice. They believe it can’t happen to them or to those they care about — until it does. But as Governor, Coakley could and probably would elevate to the bench men and women insensitive to the problem of prosecutorial misconduct. Governor Patrick has made some fine appointments, including appointments to the Supreme Judicial Court. If we give her the chance, Governor Coakley could very well undo his good work.

Click here for more detailed information.


Coakley Should Apologize for Fells Acres Mistakes

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

This editorial says what needs to be said about Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who — unfortunately — is now the leading candidate to become the next governor of the commonwealth.

“I see two moral or ethical lessons from this tragic case. The first is the continuing inability of the political ambitious and powerful to admit to a mistake. We do live in difficult media age where politicians are instantaneously crucified on Facebook, Twitter, political blogs, entertainment channels, and the 24/7 cable TV media. Underneath the criticisms, I do believe people are forgiving and would appreciate political honesty. Well, hopeful, anyhow.

“Secondly, the more frightening aspect of this tale is wholesale power we entrust to any one individual, especially when it comes to criminal prosecution, providing almost unlimited taxpayer-funded resources and authority shielded behind an elective office. The individual thus comes to symbolize or becomesthe state apparatus. True, nationally and in every state, this particular case that is such an egregious example.”

Joseph Allen is Going Back to Prison

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Today is a very sad day for me. At one p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time)  my friend Joseph Allen — an innocent man — will be sent back to prison by Judge Virgil Sinclair. He may never be free again.

The case is complicated and impossible to summarize in a few sentences. Nancy Smith was a driver for the Head Start program in Lorain Ohio. In 1993, a disturbed woman claimed that Nancy was driving her pre-schoolers to the home of a man named Joseph who would then sadistically abuse them sexually. At the time, national hysteria over sexual abuse at daycares was still raging. At first, the case went nowhere because there was no evidence to back up the accusations and much evidence against them. But the woman went to the media and caused a panic.

Eventually Joseph Allen was arrested. While Joseph was originally identified as white, Joseph Allen is a very black man. To this day, Joseph Allen and Nancy Smith have never met. The only witness to link them very obviously committed perjury.

Over months, children were cajoled into testifying. Smith and Allen were convicted in August of 1994. Smith was sentenced to 30-90 years. Joseph received 5 consecutive life sentences.

For a more detailed account, read this article I wrote about the case with Dr. Emily Horowitz.

Early in 2009, Smith and Allen were back in court due to a sentencing error that needed to be corrected. The judge assigned to the case — James Burge — took the time to examine the record. He quickly realized that the case against Smith and Allen was bogus. In June of 2009, he acquitted them both. And in a decent  world, that would have ended the matter.

But prosecutors have to be right — especially when they are wrong.

Acquittals are supposed to be final. Nevertheless, prosecutors appealed the acquittals and “won” before the Ohio Supreme Court in April of 2011.

And then nothing more happened for a very long time. By this time the press and most of the public had realized that the Smith/Allen case was a cruel and gross miscarriage of justice. Prosecutors realized that pressing their advantage could come at a political cost.

But forces hostile to Smith and Allen were at work.

In April of this year, Judge Burge was forced off the case and Virgil Sinclair was appointed to replace him.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys worked out a deal. Smith and Allen would be convicted of lesser charges and sentenced to time served. In exchange, they would give up their rights permanently to appeal their cases.

Sinclair accepted the arrangement for Nancy Smith. But he insisted that Joseph Allen go back to prison. And give up his appeal rights. His sentenced will be reduced to 15-25 years.

Now I don’t possess Sinclair’s brilliant legal mind. But he seems to believe that the crimes that Joseph Allen didn’t commit were far more serious than the ones Nancy Smith didn’t commit.

I have had phone conversations with Joseph almost every day for the past couple of weeks while he struggled over whether or not to accept this horrible deal.

Yesterday, he phoned me to tell me he was going to go along with it.


An appeal would be very expensive. (Although I’m confident that the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ) would have committed itself to raising the money.) But given the record of the Ohio Appellate Court and the Ohio Supreme Court, Joseph could never have won in Ohio. The deck was stacked against him. He might well have prevailed in federal court. But it would have taken many years to get there.

Joseph Allen will receive no relief from the parole board or the governor. He has already served closed to 15 years, so at least he should be out in ten more years. The NCRJ will do everything it can to support him while he is back in prison.

So once again the bullies have showed us who runs the school yard.

Why do they keep getting away with this crap?

One reason is that no one ever pays a price — political or otherwise — for causing and perpetrating injustice.

As citizens, we cannot continue to condemn wrongdoing and reward it at the same time.

I expect to post more about Joseph after today’s hearing is behind us.

-Bob Chatelle