Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Catherine Greig Begins Her Detention Hearing In Boston Federal Court

It has been said that hard cases make bad law. Well, maybe. But it also seems that high profile cases tend to make sudden amendments to the law, twist it up into a pretzel and then eat away at it until it is no longer noticeable.

It is a fascinating time for people like me, who actually care about the system and what it is supposed to represent, to watch as rights are slowly eroded and the procedures themselves are bastardized.

I remind you of the “Who’s gonna pay for Whitey’s attorney now that the government has taken all his money circus” that we were treated to a week or so ago.

I understand that my opinions in this blog must anger a lot of people. Sorry about that. The problem is that I also have an annoying tendency to be correct. I direct you to the once-held-as-heroic travesties of South Hadley’s prosecutor and the following “super-tough” action of our legislature to bully Massachusetts bullies.

Well, in any case, prepare to be more aggravated than ever today.

Yesterday, Catherine Greig, longtime girlfriend of Whitey Bulger, began her detention hearing. However, the Magistrate Judge hearing the case is allowing so much venting of so many human systems, that one day was not enough. It is now continued until Wednesday.

On Wednesday, relatives of Whitey Bulger’s alleged victims are supposed to be heard.

By the way, if you were under the impression that the purpose of this hearing is to see whether Ms. Greig should be released on bail while awaiting a trial in which the government has yet to prove her (or Whitey, for that matter) guilty of something…you were actually correct. That’s right….this is not her actual trial. This is to determine incidentals like whether she is likely to return to court to answer the charges against her. By the way…those charges do not include murder, drug trafficking or other things which often “necessitate” someone being held without the Constitutional right to bail.

But, I digress.

The court’s unusual move was apparently made at the behest of United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz’ office. Yes, that would be the prosecution. One of the contestants of what is quickly becoming a new “best show on earth”. The court endorsed the wonderful idea that relatives of some of the 19 people Bulger is alleged to have killed, or whose death he is accused of orchestrating, be allowed to take the witness stand in US District Court.

You may be wondering how their testimony would be relevant to the issues at hand.

Me too.

But, that incidental aside, the important thing is that while the prosecution and defense are dealing with legal issues like bail, the relatives of alleged victims will finally have their first chance to speak in court and lash out at the bad guys before anyone is proven guilty of anything. Now, the logic of this might confuse you alittle. After all, usually such statements are not allowed unless and until a defendant is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But, hey, look …people are not too happy with the justice system these days. After all, as discussed last week, a woman was found “not guilty” of the murder allegations brought against her which most onlookers thought was guilty. Further, a lot of people have been pretty angry with Whitey since he took off so long ago. Now, true, Ms. Greig has not even been charged with taking part in any of the murders…let’s face it…a detention hearing for Whitey would be laughable. These poor folks have been waiting around just chomping at the bit to lace into Whitey and his alleged deeds since Bulger’s capture last month. They’ve been pretty patient…why not throw them a bone?

I mean, who is it going to hurt? Ms. Greig? Come on, she’s a bad lady. She was with Whitey. Why should we do anything to preserve her rights?

Even the attorney for one of the families of an alleged Bulger victim admits surprise “I really haven’t seen it happen before,” he explained. Perhaps remembering who he was representing at the moment, he continued, “But this is such an unusual case that it’s really hard to compare this with happens with other cases.”

Of course! It is the perfect case in which to throw Constitutional safeguards out the window in favor of “feel good” rulings! After all…it’s good politics!

Oh, wait…you mean this isn’t the governmental arm that is supposed to be political?

Uh-oh.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Bad Guys And Constitutional Rights

Yesterday, I wrote about hypocrisy and it would appear that that “h”word has lifted its ugly head again. Perhaps we should just throw in the towel and handle these cases the way the government, and, it would seem, many of us, would prefer.

Given the economic crisis that the country is in, after all, why pay all this money that prosecutions like Whitey and his girlfriend now face when we have already decided the outcome and…in the unlikely event that the verdict is different, we won’t accept it anyway?

Why not just add that clause to the Constitution I mentioned yesterday? Simply add that criminal defendants whom we really don’t like and believe are guilty do not get a trial. Instead, we automatically hold them for a short while without bail and then either sentence them to a lifetime in jail or, better yet, just shoot ’em?. Think of all the time, money and trouble we would save!

After all, as the argument goes, why afford them all the opportunities that they did not give their (alleged) victims?

Well, the fact is that there actually are reasons for that. First of all, we consider ourselves and our system better than them. We, as a society, try to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the lowest possible denominator.

It is kind of what we just celebrated just 8 days ago.

This country was founded on distrust of government. Our very government is based upon safeguards which make our government, and its arms, answerable to the People when such safeguards are broken by them.

Making convenient changes in important and liberty-challenging matters, is dangerous, to say the least. It makes precedent. Really bad precedent.

The ironic piece is that, often it is completely unnecessary. It was in this case, for example.

Notice that nowhere above did I suggest that Ms.Greig should not have had to have a detention hearing. Yes, there are real issues and arguments that any decent prosecutor could make at such a hearing. In fact, in this case, many worthwhile pieces of evidence were submitted to the court to argue for detention.

In this case, both defendants acted as a unit (sounds like a conspiracy to me) to evade the government. They did so for many years. They did not simply do this by crossing the street when officers of the law were walking their beat. There were fake identification cards. There was cosmetic surgery. The couple fled the state.

Almost anything one could do to conceal one’s identity was done. In fact, arguably, the couple flaunted its disregard for the system by sometimes even traveling…even back to the Commonwealth…during their flight.

Now, we might argue on another day as to Ms.Greig’s actions and whether they equal the charges facing her, but, if proven, and there seems to be strong evidence of her guilt. That equals even more incentive to flee again. One wold imagine that it would be enough, along with the overall picture of her doing it with an alleged mass murderer, to hold her on detention, If not…pretty close!

But going further and introducing evidence that the victims of her co-defendant’s alleged crimes really, really want her locked up and think she is a bad woman?

Sorry, as cruel as it may seem, their opinion of these things is simply not relevant to this proceeding. And if the government keeps trying to change the rules on these defendants like it has so far…they may win trials only to lose them come appeal time. To say nothing of the resulting damage to the criminal justice system and the Constitution which they each have sworn to uphold.

To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/Boston/metrodesk/2011/07/greig-james-whitey-bulger-girlfriend-ask-judge-set-her-free-until-trial/CkOqoTmjxyHe4KQ1pmdkSL/index.html?p1=News_links

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