Articles Posted in Corrections & Prison Administration

In my previous post on this subject, explained that I believe that Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins is ill-fit for the job of top county prosecutor in Boston.  My view is that her views on the purpose and role of prosecutor – offered by her under the guise of being a “criminal justice reformer” – (how vaguely ‘positive’) endanger the public safety, and in fact frustrate the goals of criminal justice, instead of advancing them.  As it turns out, the timing for this second post could not be better, and the reason for this is the embarrassing and dangerous conduct Rollins put on full display in Boston Municipal Court these past few days.  Those actions followed the arrest by Boston Police of approximately 36 defendants at last weekend’s Straight Pride parade in downtown Boston.  Many of those defendants were charged with violently attacking not only parade participants, but Boston police officers as well.  At least four officers were injured seriously enough to not be able to report to work following these assaults.

Almost all those protesters arrested at the Straight Pride parade were members of a violent leftist extremist group calling themselves “Antifa” (supposedly, for anti-fascism).  This group is known for advocating violence to achieve their leftist (socialist) objectives, and in order to hide their identities many of them wear black hoods (remind you of anything similar, in U.S. history?)   According to official statements from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, many of these individuals came here from outside Massachusetts, specifically to agitate and engage in violence at this licensed parade. As a Boston criminal defense lawyer with more than 30 years of experience, I very much believe this assessment by the police union.   Further, these protesters were witnessed by hundreds of people along the parade route, screaming profanities at parade participants, making obscene gestures, and shouting threats of physical violence against anyone in the parade who dared to disagree with their views.

Many of these protesters were seen hurling containers of liquid at parade marchers that were later determined to contain dangerous and caustic ingredients, such as bleach, other dangerous chemicals and even urine.  Their threats of violence escalated to actual violence when many of these protesters rushed the parade marchers, physically assaulting and battering them.  When Boston police officers rushed in to stop the mayhem, these protesters then attacked the police officers themselves.  The attacks against police became so severe that officers were forced to use pepper spray against them.  These protesters, mind you, are liberal extremists that promote themselves as seeking “peace”, “equality”, and “social justice”. Continue reading

Reacting to several recent tragedies where criminal defendants killed police officers and innocent civilians while they were free on bail before trial, Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation last Thursday that would make it easier for judges to keep in jail dangerous defendants that are charged with felony offenses.

Baker’s bill largely focuses on the state’s “Dangerousness Statute”, M.G.L. Ch. 276 Sec. 58A, which allows District Attorneys to request a “Dangerousness Hearing” where prosecutors ask a judge to hold a defendant in custody while that defendant awaits trial, instead of releasing the defendant.

Under the governor’s proposal, the list of crimes that trigger the prosecution’s right to a dangerousness hearing would be expanded to include assault and battery against a police officer, several additional sex crimes, as well as human trafficking.  Another important change the bill proposes, is that judges would not be prohibited, as they are now, from taking into account a defendant’s criminal history when making his or her ruling on the issue of a defendant’s dangerousness.  That’s a major change.  In addition, prosecutors would be allowed to seek a dangerousness hearing at any stage during a criminal case. Presently, if the prosecution wants to requests a dangerousness hearing, it can only do so only at the defendant’s arraignment, not later – so it has only one chance to ask a judge to hold a defendant in jail before trial. The governor’s bill would expand that ability. Continue reading

Like an unusually large wave that occasionally hits the shore, every few years there is a swell on Beacon Hill to “reform” something. Back in the 1990’s, get-tough-on-crime advocates successfully passed legislative “crack-down” amendments to many criminal law statutes, several of them requiring mandatory minimum sentences for a variety of crimes – mostly Massachusetts drug offenses.  As a Massachusetts drug offenses lawyer, I can assure you that this approach produced some pretty awful legal results in courtrooms across the state – tying judges’ hands any time that a guilty verdict was returned by a jury on often victim-less, relatively minor drug charges.

Now, a backlash of sorts has hit Beacon Hill – in the current wave to reform many elements of the criminal justice system in Massachusetts.  The overall thrust of this effort, its sponsors say, is to reduce the numbers of people that are caught up in the criminal courts here.  In the process, the bill has sparked a lot of debate, and criticism as well. I’ll list out the major suggested changes below, with some brief commentary:

  • Current mandatory minimum sentences for several drug offenses — including cocaine distribution and selling drugs inside 300 feet of a school — would be repealed. Mandatory minimum sentences require judges to sentence anyone found guilty of certain crimes, many of which are various drug offenses, to a minimum jail or prison time, with no chance of parole. This would give back to judges the wider discretion they once had in these cases, and as anyone who knows me is aware, that’s a good thing.  As I’ve spoken of and written previously, mandatory minimum sentences do little if anything to prevent crime, and just fill our prisons up with low-level drug offenders, instead of reserving space for violent criminals. Notwithstanding, the senate’s bill would retain mandatory minimum sentences for defendants convicted of dealing the largest amounts of illegal drugs – usually, over 100 grams of cocaine or heroin. Any drug trafficking charges involving opioids would also trigger mandatory minimums.

If you’re charged with a crime in Massachusetts, and have children, you should think about how that process affects more than just yourself. Many people in this state wind up needing a Boston Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, for a wide variety of criminal charges. They may need a Dedham sex crimes attorney; or a Wrentham assault & battery lawyer, or an Attleboro drug offense attorney. As awful as winding up in jail or prison is for defendants themselves, a new study says that it’s even worse for the children of convicted defendants. No surprise there. But does that fact serve as a deterrent to a lot of would-be criminal defendants? To people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens? Yes. But not to the hard-core ones (gang members, etc.)

A recent study by the University of California-Irvine has found that prison is extremely bad for children whose parents are incarcerated, as it (quite obviously) affects their emotional development and physical health as they grow up. The study is to be published in September 2014 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. In fact, the study points out that having a parent in prison may be even more harmful to children than having their parents get a divorce or die.

In addition, the study compared children who have an incarcerated parent to other children with similar socioeconomic characteristics and demographics. It found that children who had a parent in prison were associated with having behavioral problems such learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and even speech and language problems. The obvious culprits? Mental and economic stress.

Most people who know me would tell you I’m “Not a liberal,” – and they’d be right. Most of my non-liberal views and positions concern political issues. However, when it comes to legal issues and protecting the legal rights of defendants who have been accused of crimes, I fight tooth and nail to protect and acquit my clients. I believe in the rule of law, and the law provides criminal defendants with certain rights, which I believe should be protected.

But there’s one legal organization out there, that I have never agreed with. Frankly, I find a great deal of their positions on legal issues (never mind social issues) to be extreme in the least, flamingly liberal, and obnoxious (which are often one and the same thing.) That organization is none other than the ACLU, as in American Civil Liberties Union – that bastion of left-wing radicals that aims to turn the United States into a dystopian country where EVERYONE can do ANYTHING they want or SAY ANYTHING they want, ANY WAY they want, at ANY TIME they want, in ANY place they want, where NO ONE can stop them or restrict them on any level. No matter how sickening and disturbing the speech. No matter how hateful the crime. No matter how destructive the conduct – such as manufacturing barbarically violent video games that poison the minds of young teenagers everywhere, producing massacres like Newtown, Conn. In their strange world, no one can be prevented by government from doing or saying ANYTHING they want.

Yet their middle name, literally, is “Civil Liberties.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? I have learned in life that what something sounds like, and what it actually is like, are two very different things. And the ACLU is Exhibit “A” on that point.

Now that this entire, sad affair that has taken four lives and horribly injured several more is over – at least on the investigatory and law enforcement level – though the legal one just begins – I thought some thoughts from a Boston criminal lawyer are in order here.

No, you’re not going to hear “You don’t know this suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is guilty until he’s been found guilty beyond any reasonable doubt in a court of law.” It seems quite obvious that this kid is eyeball deep in this horrible story, and his guilt seems all but a foregone conclusion. (Unless a legal technicality is available to prevent same.) No, what I want to address here, is everyone’s quite rational and normal desire for justice at the end of this story.

Everywhere around me, particularly on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and such, I keep seeing and hearing demands for the death penalty in this case. On a pedestrian level, it’s understandable why so many people want this: This was a premeditated, heinous, sadistic act of violence, which killed three people immediately, a fourth later, and maimed several more. It turned what has for decades been an enjoyable event that heralded spring for all, into a nightmare that heralded only more insecurity and grief for many. The individuals and the families affected by these sickening events, will never be the same. All wrought by two disaffected, maladjusted, twisted individuals, who probably wanted to feel “important.”

Finally, Massachusetts officials have seen the light – at least on one subject. They are about to appeal a federal judge’s decision to grant convicted murderer murderer Robert –or should I say Michelle — Kosilek’s request for sex reassignment surgery. In other words, he wants to be a she. And yes, a federal judge in Boston ordered that this surgery be performed on him, and at taxpayer’s expense.

I’ve filed a post about this before. Here’s a brief recap of the history of this matter. Convicted murderer Robert Kosilek, who killed his wife and dumped her body in the trash at a local mall almost 20 years ago, has claimed that he needs sex reassignment surgery and that denial of this surgery for himself denotes “cruel and unusual punishment.” Yes, a federal judge agreed with him, and recently ruled that the sex reassignment surgery is the correct treatment for Kosilek’s gender identity disorder, going so far as to describe it as a “serious medical need.”

The judge’s ruling prompted a huge outcry among some legislative leaders — and the public –who say Kosilek isn’t entitled to the taxpayer-funded surgery. At least we can be thankful for that display of sanity, but that doesn’t reverse this judge’s ruling.

I’ve already filed a post in this blog about the Massachusetts drug lab scandal, and before I get to today’s news about it, here’s a brief recap.

In order to secure a conviction in most drug cases, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must first establish, through expert testimony, that the substance that the defendant was accused of possessing was indeed a controlled substance. Before I go any further, let me again point out that as a Dedham drug crimes lawyer, I believe in our Constitution that states that all people are innocent until proven guilty. However, to prove that the substance in question was indeed an illegal drug, the Commonwealth must bring in the actual chemist from the state crime lab to testify in court as to what the substance is, and how the chemist arrived at his or her conclusion. The chemist is required to testify as to what chemical tests were conducted on the substance, what machines or methodology were used in the testing process, and the extent of his or her expertise as well as education. As a result, it is easy to see that the role of the state lab chemist in these types of criminal defense cases, as well as their qualifications and integrity, is extremely important, if not vital.

Over the past month the headlines in Boston cried out about one particular chemist who was employed in just such a capacity for the state crime lab. The bad news is that this chemist may have manipulated evidence to assure that defendants on trial for drug offenses were wrongfully convicted. Ms. Annie Dookhan has been accused of allegedly mishandling and manipulating evidence and testimony in hundreds of drug cases that were prosecuted between 2003 and March of 2012, when she retired from state employment. It has also been reported that she lied about her chemistry degree on her resume. The State Public Health Commissioner, John Auerbach, has even resigned in the wake of the scandal at the state drug lab.

Today, Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf delivered a ruling that strains legal credulity, and serves as yet another sign of liberal judicial activism run amok.

It’s a case that almost no reasonable person would even believe would even be heard in court, yet it has, and with a stunningly offensive legal outcome. A brief history: Robert Kosilek was convicted of murdering his wife in 1990; a horrific murder that saw Kosilek dump his wife’s dead body in the trash at a mall in North Attleboro. After being sentenced to life in prison, Kosilek decided that he was “really” a woman, that he suffered from “gender identity disorder,” and sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction (“DOC”) for hormone treatments. He later began receiving those hormone treatments. Subsequently, he sued the DOC because he felt that his case medically warranted the radical approach of sex reassignment surgery, in which the male sex organs are removed and female genitalia surgically “created” in their place.

The DOC refused to provide the surgery, and so Kosilek sued the Commissioner of the DOC in federal court, seeking a federal judge’s order that the state of Massachusetts pay for sex change surgery for this murder convict. Kosilek’s legal argument? That the state’s denial of this surgery constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Get three criminal convictions against you for a variety of violent crimes, and you’re out of luck. You will lose your chance for parole.

That’s the key message behind the tough-on-crime “three strikes” bill that the Massachusetts House voted in favor of this week. This crackdown bill basically eliminates the possibility of parole for habitual criminal offenders who are guilty of three violent offenses. In addition, those who are given more than one life sentence would also lose their chance for parole. However, the bill also reduces some mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, which is a legislative measure long past overdue, in my professional opinion as a Norfolk County drug charges lawyer.

Today, July 19th, 2012, the legislation heads to the Massachusetts Senate, where it is expected that it will be debated next Thursday. If this bill is eventually passed, it will be a milestone, as there’s been more than decade of stalled attempts to change the way repeat Massachusetts criminals are sentenced.

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