This Boston criminal lawyer believes that we are moving up another notch in criminal liability in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts….probably nation-wide in fact.

A famous, and late, gent of the 1500’s , John Donne, once wrote that no man is an island. In other words, we are all connected and must interact with each other. It suggests that we all have some sort of responsibility for one another.

Such an idea is not foreign to the justice systems, both civil and criminal. As this is the criminal lawyers blog, let’s stay on the criminal side.

The idea that someone has the responsibility of someone else has long been situational in the criminal justice system. While there has not necessarily been a duty to intervene in a crime, or even report it, there have, of late, been exceptions to the rule.

For example, a health care professional or an educator has a duty to report any potential of child abuse. A therapist, who’s patient’s sessions are normally kept confidential, must take some action if that patient seems to be an imminent threat to someone else.

Now, coming to the aid of a potential victim is, of course, not always easy to do. First of all, doing so might get one hurt or killed. Second, nobody really loves to be drawn into the criminal justice theatre, be it witness or defendant. However, particularly in the wake of Penn State’s sexual assault scandal, the rules of culpability may be about to become harsher.

Speaking of being responsible for another, criminal defense attorneys have a certain responsibility to their clients. With that in mind, one may wonder what was passing for strategy when Jerry Sandusky (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) agreed to be interviewed on national television this week. The general rule is that criminal defendants, factually guilty or innocent, should not give interviews about the pending charges. It is too dangerous. There are certain exceptions, of course, but, near as I can tell, this was not one of them.

In fact, there is a chance the media frenzy on the story would have died down a bit had the Defendant not taken the near-legally-suicidal step of chatting with Bob Costas. Clear thinking notwithstanding, there he was, as his defense attorney sat by on camera, states away from his client, who was happily talking about towel-snapping and horseplay in the shower with nude children.

Maybe an insanity plea is in the works…

“But, Sam, clearly any problem the Defendant has with his lawyer’s advice would be a civil matter, not a criminal one.”

Yes, of course. And, in days gone by, the failure to act to protect someone would also be a civil matter. And, it should be pointed out that criminal charges have not been brought against anyone other than the Defendant.


People are however, losing jobs and being held up to public ridicule. Further, there is now a call to make it a law that one must act to help another who is being victimized as the children allegedly were in this case.

“Wouldn’t it be a better world if people did automatically go to the aid of their fellow man…or boy?”

Yes, I think it would. However, that is not what this country is really based on. In any event, it is certainly not what the criminal justice system is based upon. You see, little by little, our freedoms are eroded. Now we may not want some of these freedoms…but some of them we do.

However, the immediate danger is that we are slowly being moved into a position where, like it or not, we are compelled to be government witnesses in criminal case if the government believes we can be helpful.

“So…what is wrong with that?”

Stay tuned to my next blog.

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