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.

THE THREAT OF THE QUICKIE KNEE=JERK REACTION TO MURDER IN THE MASSACHUSETS CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM (Part 3 of 3)

 

In the Cape Cod Times, the call that the criminal justice system’s “softness and weak” is to blame for the murder of the Yarmouth police office Sean Gannon. In the words of Rodney Collins, Mashpee town manager:

The tragedy of Officer Gannon is another indictment of the Massachusetts criminal justice system, which is overly soft and weak. Gov. Baker and state legislators can express sympathy and sorrow for this shocking loss; however, what they really need to do is act on criminal justice reform that will keep violent offenders from preying upon a civilized society. Call it the “Gannon bill” and make a real difference!

We had been discussing this topic on my postings of April 13, April 19  and April 20th. Feel free to review them.

Now, lets tie this issue up.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Half-Thought-Through-Thinking

When we left off, I had brought up the topic of plea bargains. While the topic is certainly relevant to this immediate discussion, it is fodder for more than half a blog. So, let’s get to that another day and deal with the clarion call to change the system, blame the judges and, probably, as Shakespeare once suggested, “kill all the lawyers”.

Without question, the Massachusetts criminal justice system needs changes. There is no question of this. The problem, however, when we look to make such changes certain folks, often those unencumbered by actual knowledge or experience, knee-jump to the issue of the day. They then demand changes as if that was the only problem and that it exists in a vacuum. I’m sorry, but this is exactly what Mr. Collins seems to be doing.

Mr. Collins, does, however, demonstrate what I have explained to you many times. The fact that people in law enforcement and judges are criticized when the perception is that they are too lenient, or “soft” on crime. Being unfairly harsh? Not a problem.

Perhaps you are someone who actually believes that such is the correct approach. After all, most crimes carry a range of sentences. Perhaps you believe that every defendant should get the maximum possible sentence and the harshest possible treatment.

I will advise you that you will be shocked how quickly that opinion will change when the accused is either you or someone you care about.

Bit I digress.

In coming to such a conclusion, you have decided that it does not matter who breaks the particular statute. It does not matter what the circumstances were. They should all get the same treatment. Probably, state prison.

“No, Sam, not necessarily. The court should keep in mind the defendant’s history. The defendant at issue had a bad one. There is no disputing that.”

That is true, although I will remind of something. Folks like Mr. Collins seem to confuse an arrest with a conviction. That is not only unfair, but it undermines our entire system. When a defendant is not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and is either found not guilty or the matter is dismissed, it is not for the court, nor the populous, to simply look at that as “Well, the guy was guilty, but he got away with it.”

That would be where the Mr. Collins approach would lead us.

“Well, isn’t there truth in that? I mean, the police would not have arrested someone if they hadn’t done anything.”

That type of “where there is smoke there is fire” attitude is not only counter to everything we are supposed to believe in, it is simply not true. Certainly not always. We have discussed stories about cases wherein people were arrested simply for simply angering the wrong person or the lies or mistakes of another individual.

Further, there is the dirty little secret in our system which we only admit when we have to. Namely, sometimes it is the agents of the Commonwealth, i.e. law enforcement personnel, who have done the falsifying and lying.

Or do you really believe the folks guilty of these crimes are the ones actually caught?

Yes, there are many problems with the system. This is no secret. Unfortunately, folks do not want to deal with those problems. Folks want quickie simple knee-jerk reactions that only center on one area of issues.

Unfortunately, these issues are all related. By stirring up the pot and proclaiming a simple quickie solution, or blaming those who actually k=now what went on in court, such as a judge, one only damages the system further.

“How?”

First of all, by creating bad laws that have not really been thought through. Second, give folks a false feeling of security. “Hey! We solved the problem. Let’s go back to sleep!”

That sleep, or stasis, is the real problem in the system.

But, hey, who has the time to really think things through these days? We’re too busy working!

 

 

 

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