Convicted Killer Set Free in Massachusetts Because Judge Violated Sixth Amendment

The life sentence of a dying convicted killer has been vacated in Massachusetts because the judge that oversaw the case had closed the courtroom to the public during jury selection for the trial. US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner issued her decision after recently finding out that the Dwayne Owens’ right to a speedy and quick trial had been violated when federal Judge William G. Young cleared the courtroom of viewers so there could be space for the 72 potential jurors.

By making this portion of the jury selection process private, Judge Young violated Owens’ sixth amendment rights.

The Sixth Amendment of the Us Constitution’s Bill of Rights says that:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Owens, 44, had been convicted to life in prison for the 1992 Halloween murder of Rodney Belle. Owens, who is now confined at home and wears an electronic bracelet on Judge Gertner’s orders, has terminal lung cancer. It is uncertain whether Owens will be retried for the murder again because he is dying.

Belle, a father of five children who was 30 at the time of the slaying, was in Mattapan, Massachusetts when he was shot 21 times. 4 of the shots were fired directly into his head. According to federal prosecutors, Owens, a well-known New England cocaine czar at the time of the murder, thought Bell had set him up to have his drugs stolen.

Owens, who was convicted in 1997, had served 10 years of his life sentence.

Dying killer freed due to judge error, Boston Herald, October 22, 2007
Amendment VI, US Constitution: Bill of Rights, Cornell University Law School

Related Web Resources:

United States v. Dwayne Owens, Appellant, United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Court
Drug kingpin may get new trial,, April 14, 2007
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