It began in early January, 2008, when three Boston men were brought to court, introduced to defense lawyers and advised of charges against them. The charges included shooting at a Brockton police officer during a chase from Brockton into Quincy.
As is usually the case, the police had won the chase and Salomao T. (hereinafter, “Defendant 1”), Faustino R. (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”) and Antonio D. (hereinafter, “Defendant 3”) were arrested.
The law enforcement community was so happy, the following was posted on January 6, 2008, about the incident at www.masscops.com:
Re: Police Chase out of Brockton, Shots Fired
________________________________________ The short version is the BPD were chasing shooting suspects in a car that fled all the way to Quincy. The bad guys are believed to have shot a few times at the cops as they were being chased. A BPD officer returned fire through his windshield (passenger officer of 2 man cruiser). A couple of cruisers crashed and so did the bad guys. 3 suspects in custody with a gun recovered.
Great Job by all involved!!!!!!!
Well, now a year later, the police are not so thrilled. Neither is the prosecutor. Who are they upset with?
Why, the judge, of course.
Brockton police and prosecutors are fuming that Defendants 1 – 3 got “minimal jail time” for shooting an innocent bystander in the foot and at officers during a harrowing high-speed chase that ended in Quincy.
“I’m very disappointed,” Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said of the sentences Brockton Superior Court Judge Carol Ball handed to the defendants. “These guys deserved a heck of a lot more time.”
The defendants pleaded guilty to charges against them in what is normally referred to as a “plea bargain”, something not terribly unusual in the criminal justice system.
In fact, is regarded by most attorneys as a necessity without which the system would likely grind to a standstill.
Defendant 1, 31 years of age, for example, received a sentence of two-to-three years in state prison. The Commonwealth had asked for fourteen-to-twenty years. He was apparently the driver of the defendants’ car. Defendant 3, age 27, received a sentence of four-to-five years, while the Commonwealth had requested a sentence of twenty-three to thirty years. He was the shooter.
Defendant 3, who is in the country illegally, will be deported after his sentence, Ball said in court.
Brockton Police Chief William Conlon called the sentence “an insult” and added: “We don’t feel justice was served. It sends a very discouraging message.”
More than 80 cops stormed out of the courtroom in a joint tantrum after the sentencing.
I have a ten-year old son who used to do that sometimes too.
The Honorable Judge Carol Ball was the sentencing judge in this matter. She has been a superior court judge for many years and has an extremely strong and positive reputation. She is regarded by most attorneys who appear before her, myself included, as one of the fairest judges in the Commonwealth.
The fact that the police officers in this matter are upset is understandable. They are emotionally involved. While not officially one of the parties, they have a clear “good guy”/”bad guy” point of view which, unless the defendant is donned in blue, very rarely includes any shades of gray.
Criminal cases, however, are more about more than simply crushing the “bad guy” like a grape. They involve human beings. Yes, human victims but also human defendants. Further, the defendants sent away to prison generally come out. What they come out as…is another story. It is, however, a story in which we can have some input. The only way of doing that, however, is treating the defendants as a human being rather than a number. That is what judges like Judge Ball does.
I have been a prosecutor and a defense attorney; I have not been a judge. I have, however, been around long enough to know that many considerations go into any serious-minded judge when handing down a sentence. Often, these considerations include things that are not released to the general public or the police department. I have also disagreed with sentences given. But then, I was an advocate. I was involved. Like the police officers in today’s story.
There is a reason that the judiciary is separate from the various elected officials in our system of government. It is not supposed to be a political post. Judges are entrusted with hearing both sides of a matter, taking various elements into consideration, and determining the sentence they deem appropriate.
There are safeguards even in this. The legislature creates the allowable parameters effecting what sentences can be given for which crimes. Further, there are appeals courts and the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts to “second guess” decisions made by lower court judges.
The police department is neither part of the appeals court nor the legislature. They are witnesses in the criminal matter…and sometimes, believe it or not, not the most stellar of witnesses at that.
As I have said before in this daily blog, I have a great deal of respect for the police. True, there are exceptions with this as there are with any profession. However, they do a necessary, dangerous and very difficult job. In most cases, they truly serve our society. However, That does not make them infallible. It does not make them judges. And it does not make it right for them to fill a courtroom in an attmpte to intimidate a judge to pass the sentence they want and then cause a scene when they do not get it.
They, like all of us, have a right to an opinion. For example, this is mine. But there is a certain amount of professionalism one tends to expect.
Not long ago, the public was riled up at sentences given by another judge, the Honorable Judge Lopez. Finally, they made it so difficult for her, she resigned her post. To me, that was a dangerous sign of the politicizing of the judiciary.
Of course, for her, it was an entry to getting her own daily television show. But that, again, is another story.
Have a good and law-abiding weekend!
The full articles of this story can be found at http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1145399, http://www.masscops.com/forums/showthread.php?p=357913 and http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/14990948/detail.html