Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Why People Want Justice Only in Fiction

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have been engaged in the fight for justice for many years now. With each year, it has become more obvious to me that our criminal-justice system is dysfunctional and cruel.

And yet the cause of justice remains unpopular. Politicians care little about justice because few constituents lobby for it. And citizens, generally, only care about justice when they or someone they care about is a victim of injustice.

So it used to puzzle me that injustice is a popular theme in fiction. People reading books or watching movies get angry about injustice and want justice to be served in the end.

But the answer is simple.

All you have to do for justice to prevail in fiction is to sit on your butt, turn the pages, or wait for the closing credits.

-Bob Chatelle

Thoughts on the Fourth of July

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have slept very badly since last Wednesday, the day I heard the awful news about Ohio’s continuing persecution of Joseph Allen — a sweet and gentle man I’m privileged to call a friend.

And now it is Independence Day, a day upon which we are supposed to celebrate our freedom. But it is hard for me to celebrate, knowing that the state has the power to snatch away the freedom of any (non-privileged) citizen. While I don’t support the Tea Party movement, I share the anger of many who do.

Sixteen years ago, Joseph and his co-defendant, Nancy Smith, of Lorain, Ohio, were convicted of committing crimes that never happened. The “evidence” against them was unreliable: the coerced testimony of small children who had been pressured to claim that Smith and Allen had done terrible things to them. The techniques used to interview these children have since been thoroughly discredited. No reasonable person could look at this case and conclude that either person was guilty.

Nevertheless, Smith and Allen rotted in prison for fifteen years. But over a year ago, they were back in court because of an error in their sentencing. At that time, Judge James Burge saw an opportunity to right a terrible wrong: he acquitted them because there was insufficient evidence to convict them. There matters should have stood.

But the District Attorney and Ohio Attorney General immediately appealed the judge’s decision.

I once heard a prosecutor say that his worst nightmare was convicting an innocent person. That is true for some prosecutors. For others, their worst nightmare is convicting an innocent person and not getting away with it.

Last Wednesday, the Ohio Appeals Court decided to let Smith’s acquittal stand but to send Allen back to prison. Their reason: in 1994, Smith’s attorney had filed a motion for acquittal but Allen’s (incompetent) attorney had not. So Joseph, who spent 15 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, faces the prospect, after over a year of freedom, of spending the remainder of his days behind bars.

I must concur with Dickens’ Mr. Bumble: “If that is the law, then the law is a ass.”

One of the Appellate Justices — Donna Carr — dissented from the decision. She wanted to send both Smith and Allen back to prison. She believed that allowing either to go free would cause the public to “lose confidence in the criminal justice system.”

Such Alice-in-Wonderland reasoning boggles my mind. It was the same “logic” that was used by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court when it reinstated the convictions of Cheryl and Violet Amirault. The reasoning seems to be: we must retain public confidence by refusing, regardless of the facts, to admit that innocent people get sent to prison.

But it is the obstinacy and callousness of people such as Carr and the members of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that cause reasonable people to lose confidence.

I fear that America has become a nation containing two kinds of people: those who count and those who don’t. I’m happy to number myself among the people who don’t count because I don’t crave the company of the other sort.

Prime examples of people who don’t count are Joseph Allen, Bernard Baran, Victor Rosario and many others I could name. Poor people lack the resources to defend themselves against the powers of the state. And once thrown into prison, it is next to impossible to free them.

When David battles Goliath, in the vast majority of cases Goliath beats the crap out of David.

On occasion, David will get off a lucky shot.

This, fortunately, happened with Bernard Baran. Several extremely improbable events occurred that made his freedom possible. Some of these improbable events: (1) He attracted the support of Katha Pollitt, who wrote two compelling columns in The Nation; (2) his web site attracted the support of a businessman who paid a large portion of the necessary legal expenses and (3) the District Attorney who was withholding vital exculpatory evidence had a fatal heart attack while shoveling snow. Had any one of these improbable events not occurred, Baran would almost certainly have died in prison. His odds of winning megabucks were greater than his odds of winning freedom.

The cost of Baran’s freedom, by the way, was about $600,000. (Justice is a most expensive commodity.) And Baran’s efforts to obtain some compensation from the state are vigorously opposed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

When a poor but innocent person has a better chance of winning the lottery than of winning freedom, then something is very wrong with the system.

I accept the fact that injustice will always be with us. Evil people will always seek power and use any means necessary to get it. And good people — if and when they achieve power — will too often be corrupted by it. Such is human nature. The bullies will always rule the schoolyard.

But even the most powerless among us still have choices, if only choices about basic values. The individual can still choose whether to go along with injustice or to resolve to resist it. And if we lack the power to resist it, we can at least bear witness to its existence, in hope that others can and will act. Those who believe we already have a just society will not strive to create one.

Happy Fourth of July.

-Bob Chatelle

Another Reason to Hate Massachusetts

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I just came upon this post at the Real Cost of Prisons blog:

The Massachusetts House has passed a bill to authorize a charge of up to $5 a day for Massachusetts prisoners.

Even the few prisoners lucky enough to have jobs don’t make as much as $5 a day. The burden would fall on the family and friends of prisoners, most of whom could ill afford to pay such an outrageous fee. If I had to pay $5 a day for every prisoner I’m supporting I’d have to give up eating.

This bill has not yet become law. I hope Massachusetts residents will complain to the idiots who voted for this. Members of the Senate and Governor Patrick need to be contacted as well.

-Bob Chatelle

Farewell, Firefox!

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I am creating this post using Internet Explorer, a browser I had hoped I’d never have to fall back on. But I just can’t live with Firefox anymore. Maybe I will give it another try on its next release.

My problem started when I tried to install a Firefox add-on called Firebug. I could not get it to install. I googled around for advice. I was told to create a “clean” profile. I did. Finally, I uninstalled completely and reinstalled.

I then discovered that all of my add-ons were gone and that nothing I did would bring them back.

So I tried Firefox support and discovered that it basically doesn’t exist. You are allowed to ask a question in their forum. But your question quickly gets lost, because it turns out hundreds of other people are also having terrible problems with Firefox.

I have no more time to waste on it. I don’t like Internet Explorer, but at least add-ons work with it.

I will leave Firefox on my computer because I still need it to test changes in web pages. I also have Opera, Chrome, and Safari installed for this purpose.

I’ve been using Firefox for many years. I feel I’ve been let down by an old friend.


Shanley Decision Even Worse Than I Thought

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I am sorry to say that there was not a single dissent. I had my hopes up about Ralph Gants. But he bitterly disappointed.

This is what they had to say about repressed memory:

“In sum, the judge’s finding that the lack of scientific testing did not make unreliable the theory that an individual may experience disassociative amnesia [massive repression] was supported in the record, not only by expert testimony but by a wide collection of clinical observations and a survey of academic literature,” Cordy wrote.

In other words, although there is no evidence to back the theory, we have to accept it because some clinicians and academics happen to believe in it.

By this reasoning, the “expert” testimony of astrologers should also be admissible in Massachusetts courtrooms.

-Bob Chatelle

More Massachusetts Injustice – SJC Upholds Bogus Shanley Conviction

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

I was not surprised — but still sickened — by this story that just appeared on the Boston Globe web site.

I attended the Shanley trial. No reliable evidence was presented. The only evidence, in fact, was the uncorroborated testimony of a steroid-addicted sociopath who claimed that Shanley had abused him on a weekly basis for years and that he then immediately repressed all memories of the abuse only to recover them decades later.

There is no evidence to support the possibility of this kind of massive repression.

But thanks to the SJC, this whacko theory is now considered “science” in Massachusetts courtrooms. I live in a state where the SJC cares aught for science and justice but everything about politics. Perhaps they just wanted to give their pal Martha Coakley, who relentlessly pursued this conviction, a little boost.

I haven’t yet seen the decision. I wonder if at least one Justice had the guts to dissent.

Judges in more enlightened states have tossed the theory of massive repression into the trash where it belongs. Sooner or later, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to have to tackle the issue. Perhaps the Shanley case is the one they need to hear.

For more about Shanley, see

-Bob Chatelle

Nifong's Revenge

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

December 8, 2009. Another day that will live in infamy.

As expected, Attorney General Martha Coakley won the Massachusetts Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Massachusetts is a one-party state. Barring an act of God, Coakley will be our next Senator.

My sentiments about this election are essentially those expressed by W.C. Fields, when he was told he couldn’t get a drink because it was election day. Fields said,

“That’s carrying democracy too far.”

I’m also reminded of what Dick Tuck said when he lost his primary race to Richard Nixon.

“The people have spoken — the bastards.”

-Bob Chatelle

Coakley Unfit to Replace Ted Kennedy — by Daniel Weaver

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Martha Coakley, the current Massachusetts Attorney General, is not fit to be a United States Senator. Anyone who thinks so only needs to study the Fells Acres Day Care case. The Fells Acres Day Care was started by Violet Amirault and run with the help of her son, Gerald, and his sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave. In the midst of the daycare sex abuse hysteria of the 1980s, all three were charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse.

The charges were some of the most heinous ever made. However, they were also ludicrous. Supposedly Gerald dressed up as a clown and assaulted the children in a secret or magic room. Some children claimed to be sodomized with two foot knives and lobsters. Some of the acts allegedly took place on the front lawn in full view of the highway.

Read the entire article.

-Bob Chatelle

We Must Stop Martha Coakley!

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

When I first heard the unfortunate news about Senator Kennedy’s terminal illness, my blood ran cold at the thought of his being succeeded by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

I fear that Coakley is going to be hard to stop. She will be the only woman in a crowded race, and she is likely to have the enthusiastic support of the Boston Globe, which does its best to influence electoral politics in Massachusetts.

The media is making much of her “stellar” record in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office. Let’s look at that record.

First, there is the case of Ray and Shirley Souza. These were the Lowell grandparents falsely accused and convicted of molesting their own grandchildren. The case was spurred by a daughter who was victimized by a recovered-memory “therapist.” The testimony was manufactured by the same discredited methods used in the other high-profile cases of the day. Ray Souza is now deceased, but Shirley — a very fine woman — is saddled with living her life out as a registered sex offender.

Coakley was also the prosecutor in the case of Louise Woodward — the nanny accused of murdering a child in her care. There was no reliable medical evidence supporting this. Woodward was convicted, but the judge changed the verdict to manslaughter, sentenced her to time served, and released her to return to her native England.

Then there was the Fells Acres case.  The Amirault family was falsely accused and wrongly convicted of abusing children at the daycare school that they ran. This was one of the classic daycare cases, along with the McMartin case, Bernard Baran, the Little Rascals, and many others. While Coakley was not one of the original prosecutors, she fought the appeals tooth and nail. And when Gerald Amirault was pursuing a commutation, she orchestrated a disinformation campaign against the Amiraults.

Coakley and the Middlesex County DA’s office also did their best to derail at least one wrongfully convicted inmate’s efforts to prove his innocence via DNA evidence, at first denying that such evidence existed, then trying to impede access to it.  Once the evidence was obtained. and the inmate’s innocence was established, Coakley still tried (and failed) to strike a face-saving deal in which the exoneree would admit to a nonexistent measure of guilt.

And then there is the case of Paul Shanley The media campaign against Shanley was so successful that few consider his innocence a possibility. But innocent he is. I attended that trial. There was no evidence against him, other than the testimony of a sociopath who had collected a huge settlement from the church and who claimed to have massively repressed for decades all memory of terrible abuse that had occurred weekly for years.  There is no scientific evidence to support the theory of massive repression. I refer you to Dr. Richard McNally’s excellent book on the subject, Remembering Trauma.

I believe that Coakley is driven more by ambition than ideology. But her willingness to sacrifice the lives of innocent people in order to further her political goals is most troubling. If Massachusetts voters wish to honor Ted Kennedy’s legacy, they should send someone else to replace him.

-Bob Chatelle

Martha Coakley Does it Again!

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

I live in Massachusetts, the witch-hunt state, where the spirit of Salem still lives. The enemies of justice here are many. There are former Attorneys General Scott Harshbarger and Tom Reilly, who built their political careers railroading the innocent Amirault family into prison.

There’s the motley crew in Berkshire County: the late Gerard Downing, “therapist” Jane Satullo, current DA David Capeless, Judge Daniel Ford. Perhaps their greatest victory against justice was the corrupt imprisonment of an innocent teenager, Bernard Baran, finally recently cleared of charges after twenty-five years. But we must not forget Robert Halsey, Bruce Clairmont, Paul Litchfield, Lou Piccone, Michael O’Laughlin, and many others.

And then there’s the current Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley. She is probably the most powerful and most dangerous of the enemies of justice, because the political careers of Harhsbarger and Reilly are, thankfully, at an end. Coakley built her career prosecuting and demonizing two innocent grandparents, Ray and Shirley Souza. As DA of Middlesex County she left no stone unturned to prevent the reversal of a successful wrongful prosecution. She is perhaps best known for her battle to preserve the conviction of the Amiraults. But there was at least one incident in which she tried to plea bargain someone after he had been exonerated by DNA.

Michael O’Laughlin’s conviction was recently unanimously thrown out by the First Circuit Court of Appleas, not a Court known for its sympathy for defendants. Now Coakley is coming to the aid of her buddy David Capeless and is attempting to reinstate Michael’s conviction.


Coakley seeks to reverse ‘flawed’ decision

Coakley seeks to reverse ‘flawed’ decision –

By Jack Dew Berkshire Eagle Staff LEE — The attorney general is seeking to keep Michael O’Laughlin, convicted of beating a Lee woman View Full Story

Coakley is ruthless and ambitious. She has made no secret of her desire to be a United States Senator. She was ready to go after it when there was a chance that John Kerry might be elected President and would have to give up his Senate seat. Now she is lusting after Ted Kennedy’s seat. Kennedy is seriously ill. Coakley would likely be the only prominent woman in a crowded race. She would almost certainly have the endorsement of the wretched Boston Globe. And she just made a major (and cynical) play for the gay and lesbian vote by challenging the Federal Defense of marriage Act.

And after the Senate, there’s always the Presidency.

-Bob Chatelle