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.

ATTORNEY SAM QUESTIONS WHETHER BROOKLINE SHOOTING/STABBING ARRESTS ARE A RUSH TO JUDGMENT

Yesterday, we discussed the recent shooting/stabbing case which unfolded in Brookline this week.

“Yes, you were kind of mean to the nice Police Chief about his statements and the arrests.”

Do you think so?

“Yes and you left off suggesting that the way the police handled this matter put me in some kind of danger”.

So I did. I tend to find that when the authorities decide to make “urgent” and rushed arrests…before even thinking the whole matter through… the general population is put at risk.

“How so?”

In a number of ways. For example, one thing I often find when law enforcement rushes through to make arrests is that they increase the risks of getting it wrong. This is a reality to which, when mentioned, officers generally scoff. You will notice that they also seldom reconsider and admit that they might have been wrong.

Not solving a violent case correctly, as opposed to “expediently” puts us all in danger as the true culprits are often left unprosecuted. This should be apparent on its face. The flip side of this danger is something fewer people end up having to worry about.

This would be the folks who end up facing charges for things like home invasion, assault and attempted murder who shouldn’t be.

“But if they should not be even charged, then they will probably be found ‘Not Guilty’. Where is the harm?”

Ok, I have to admit that no thinking individual…certainly one of my readers…would honestly ask that question. As we have discussed many times, there is a great deal of harm. There is the temporary loss of liberty, the expense of an attorney and the likelihood of a destroyed family and lost career.

That’s under the best of circumstances where there is an acquittal.

“Why do you think the wrong people might be charged?”

The public pressure and the quick arrest for two things. Here, the two people charged turn out to be wounded as was the assumed victim. These people clearly were not going anywhere. They were hospitalized. We do not have any idea about the source of the finger pointing of them as perpetrators. I imagine it was the guy they found in the apartment. Could he have some kind of motive to lie? Could it be that he was one of the assailants? Somebody stabbed and shot the two men found on the street.

Meanwhile, two other men who escaped are in the wind. At least one of them is considered armed and dangerous. Wouldn’t it be dandy to focus on finding them before coming to conclusions?

By rushing to charge the two men in the hospital, law enforcement has effectively closed off the possibility of getting any information from them. They are now criminal defendants and their lawyers must have insisted that they make no further statements.

“Well, if they Really are innocent, why wouldn’t they still give information to the police?”

Well, I don’t know all the intricacies of this investigation, but I can tell you that, unless there is something highly unusual in this case, I certainly would not advise them to speak to law enforcement if I were their attorney. The way things work, such questioning would be for the sole purpose of building the case against them. That would be the case…the theory…upon which the officers have obviously already decided.

Which brings us to some of the particular statements made by the Police Chief which were rather unfortunate if not revealing.

Take the business of a motive for example. Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn, we realized that the Commonwealth has no duty to prove motive. It is not an element of any crime. Sometimes, though, if you are on sure footing, it’s nice to have to you reveal what you believe it to be. However, if you are not sure…we knew to keep our mouths shut.

Not this police chief, though. No, Mr. O’Leary announced early on that he believed that they knew the motive. He then went on to tease by saying he did not want to reveal it. Minutes thereafter, however, he revealed it to be a robbery or drug deal gone sour.

Somebody might want to suggest the Chief check out a dictionary to learn the differences between knowing something and a guess. Further, he might want to think about what happens when you accept guesses as facts and thereupon base the arrests of human beings for serious crimes while you are still in Guessland.

One little detail that is an element that the prosecution must prove in any criminal action is that of identity. One might shrug off clumsiness and inconsistency with something like motive…but, surely, any experienced member of law enforcement knows that you cannot do that with identity! Right?

Guess again.

In the same unfortunate press conference, after safely arresting two injured men confined to the hospital who were clearly victims of somebody shooting and stabbing them, this chief fumbled around with the topic of the escaped suspects’ identities. First, he announced that law enforcement was working on learning who they were. Then, he told the media that they were actually “known” by multiple police agencies.

So, now we are left with confusion as to identities and motives, have two victimized suspects who can no longer give information to law enforcement and two armed guys out and about who are armed and dangerous. We are to relax though. At least the police got two hospitalized men off the street.

Anything else here that might endanger you?

Given the confusion that seems to exist around this matter, we can assume that the Guessland Police Department is still under pressure to find the loose ends in this case. That would be the suspects who’s identity that they either do or do not know. At least, it should be.

One has to wonder who is likely to be the next person will be that they rush to arrest in connection with this case.

Could it be someone you care about?

Could it be you?

Were you in Guessland on Wednesday?

Well, in the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

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