A Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Discuses Changes In MA Parole System Due To Homicide Of Woburn Police Officer- Attorney Sam’s Take

If you heard a cacophony of crashing noises yesterday from the direction of Boston’s Beacon Hill, it was the sound of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick , along with a certain Parole Board, caving in to public ridicule and political pressure.

As you have heard time and time again, the now-infamous Massachusetts Parole Board released a repeat violent offender in 2008. Of course, it was not the first time that this has happened. However, this time, said offender , in 2010, was involved in a robbery to which the late police officer John Maguire responded. There was a gunfight and the officer, as well as the offender, were killed. Since that time, amongst various reports of unexplained police shootings of suspects and non-suspects, a state-wide hand-wringing has been occurring.

Naturally, in 2011, tragedy must be someone’s fault. Someone living’s fault. Thus, it was the Parole Board’s fault.

At first, Governor Patrick had the gall to be a leader and indicate before rushing to judgment and demanding the Parole Board’s heads on a stick, that perhaps we should concentrate on the victims, then gather all the evidence and then decide fault.

Well, so much for that kind of nonsense.

Governor Patrick has now announced “sweeping changes” at the Massachusetts Parole Board. The political broomstick has swept out, for example, the five Parole Board members at issue (through their own resignations, of course).

Said sweeping also includes a moratorium to remain in place on executive sessions for high-risk offenders, he said. The governor also promised to file legislation calling, among other things, for tougher sentencing for repeat offenders and greater truth in sentencing. According to press accounts, Governor Patrick wants paroles of repeat violent offenders to stop until the Parole Board can demonstrate an ability to oversee their release.

Patrick also said at the news conference he was appointing Josh Wall, first assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, as the interim executive director of the board. He also said he had nominated Wall to the board and intended to appoint him chairman.

During my many years as an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney , I have had many dealings with assistant district attorney Wall. He is an experienced prosecutor and, as the late Jerry Williams would say, “Not a bad guy”.

He is, of course a seasoned prosecutor which means he is well indoctrinated to that point of view. I suppose that’s ok…the assumption at parole is, after all, that the potential parolee “did it”.

The problem is when the governor, who should know better, succumbs to the weight of political expediency. Statements like no paroles should be allowed until the Parole Board can guarantee that it can oversee all parolees is a command not rooted in reality and he knows it.

Parole cannot guarantee that. Not enough resources.

One might as well say that nobody will be placed on probation any longer because the Department of Probation cannot guarantee adequate oversight. Anyone in the system will tell you that, actually, they can’t if they are honest.

I wonder if, given the above-referenced police shootings and beatings, whether we should hold off on giving police officers weapons until we can guarantee that they are all fit and properly supervised. Ahh, but now I am talking crazy…!

Again, in a system where we try to cure everything by criminal sentences and prison terms, it is not possible. There are not enough resources and there will be less tomorrow. Raise taxes for it? Come on…you know better than that.

On the other hand, the governor claims he wants better “truth in sentencing”:. Actually, we have that. A sentence of 10 years, for example, means that you will basically serve 10 years. However, “life sentences” which sound so good ‘n tough cannot actually always mean life. First of all, it would not be appropriate for all those who receive such sentences. Further, again, we would not have the resources to keep all of them in for life. Finally, take away all hope of freedom and all such prisoners would have nothing to lose by their conduct. In short, an already inadequate and, n my view dangerous, correctional system will become more out of control.

On the other hand, such “tough talk sounds mighty good when you say it fast, doesn’t it? True, it might trample on a few felons” rights, but, after all, they are criminals, so we don’t really care about their rights.

Nor the problems the resulting anger, bitterness and realization that the “Justice System” is anything but that in the “big house” will bring.

At least, for now.

Until the whole system shuts down.

But we can continue to play our word games until then, can’t we?

In the meantime, if you want to cut down on the odds of your becoming one of these “human beings turned statistics” after being accused of a crime, you want a criminal defense attorney with experience. If you want that attorney to be me, If you would like that attorney to be me, please feel to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.

Have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

To view the original story, and charming photograph about which parts of this blog were based, please go to : http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2011/01/governor_announ_2.html?p1=News_links

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