Just between us, watch what you say
Mark Tremblay is, by all accounts, a reasonably intelligent family man who works two jobs, including installing “kill switches” in police cars. A 5-2 majority opinion by the state’s highest court says that only helped justices solidify their position when they upheld his conviction for burning a neighbor’s boat in Chelmsford, a conviction based on an inflammatory anti-gay screed that prosecutors say showed motive but that Tremblay thought was “off the record” during an interview with police investigating the 2002 arson.
The decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, which has in the past tossed convictions because of a variety of acts of perceived police and prosecutorial malfeasance, upholds investigators’ limited ability to use “deception or trickery” as long as they don’t violate a suspect’s constitutional rights against making involuntary self-incriminating statements.
The case involved a State Police arson investigation of a boat belonging to a man who lived across the street from Tremblay on a lake in Chelmsford. The victim, whom the SJC gave the pseudonym Harold Nelson, said he was in bed shortly before midnight when his 20-foot boat burst into flames on a trailer across the street from his home.
After interviewing guests that were at a party at Tremblay’s house, troopers zeroed in on Tremblay as a suspect, although they never detained him or put him under arrest, foregoing the need for a Miranda warning of his rights, according to the SJC.
Tremblay signed a semi-watered down version of his interview and that’s when troopers turned on him and said he was the main target and he best come clean. About a month later, Tremblay was indicted and convicted, and his lawyers appealed, saying the statements should not have been admitted. From the motion judge on up, Tremblay’s appeal was denied. But the SJC majority never defined what and when an “off the record” discussion can be used, saying Tremblay’s statements were neither involuntary nor coerced. Despite never dealing with law enforcement before, the justices upheld the lower court ruling that Tremblay was “savvy enough” to know he was talking with police investigating a crime.
The minority opinion, written by Associate Justice Ralph Gants and joined by Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, offered a definition of “off the record” and said using the statements Tremblay made was akin to violating a suspect’s Miranda rights.
“The misrepresentation at issue here – false promises that a statement will not be used against the suspect – casts as much substantial doubt on the voluntariness of the statement as false promises of leniency and false representations regarding the defendant’s right to defend himself at trial,” Grant writes.
It’s a tricky subject, this off the record thing, and one that we often struggle with in the media. What does it mean to whom and what is the difference between “off the record” and “for background?” Ask Sarah Palin about her “just between us girls” chat with Katie Couric.
So here’s some advice to criminal suspects and media subjects: We’re all just doing our job so make sure of the ground rules — or watch your mouth.
House Democrats block debate on a package of rules Republicans have pushed since the conviction of former Speaker Sal DiMasi.
Three state employees in the Department of Conservation and Recreation have lost their jobs following an investigation into the June 26 death of a Fall River woman who drowned in a DCR pool and remained submerged on the pool floor for two days. Also sacked was a Fall River city health inspector who signed off on use of the pool even as Marie Joseph’s body lay at the bottom of its murky waters.
Civil libertarians hit a bid to store license plate scanning data in a central state database.
Patrick housing aide Tina Brooks is leaving Beacon Hill for New York.
The Globe editorial page warns Boston officials that it is watchdogging the process closely to make sure no inside deals take place as the city gets ready to dispose of a North End building that has housed the watchdog Boston Finance Commission.
Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua withdraws his nominee for budget chief, the second time he has had to do that as the search goes on, the Eagle-Tribune reports. In an editorial, the paper calls the budget chief fiasco another black eye for the state’s poorest city.
Lowell City Clerk Richard Johnson is put on paid administrative leaves during an investigation into missing funds in his office, the Sun reports.
Quincy officials must find $12 million to reroute Town Brook from Quincy Center before the planned $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment can get underway.
Sunderland selectmen approved an appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court to stop a planned 150-unit apartment complex in the small town.
David Bernstein looks at what the Urban League’s national conference means for race in Boston. Bruce Mohl looks at this in summer issue of CommonWealth.
Newburyport residents slam the city’s redevelopment authority members for meeting in private with developer Steve Karp.
The National Review editors call the Gang of Six proposal “the worst of the debt-ceiling compromises … to date.” Some of their contributors, though, are saying the plan deserves a chance. Wall Street prepares for the debt apocalypse, just in case.
Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish asks: Can the gang of six save us?
NPR’s Scott Horsley explains what a chained CPI is and how it would help trim the nation’s deficit.
Great, a presidential Twitter debate where all answers have to be 140 characters or less. NECN has the story. And the Christian Science Monitor wraps up and analyzes the first Twitter presidential debate in New Hampshire.
The New York Times looks at Mitt Romney’s front porch campaign. A new Washington Post poll finds Romney ahead of the Republican field, but vulnerable.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren closes his second quarter Senate fundraising $23,000 in the red.
Michele Bachmann just can’t get enough celery.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has decided to discontinue funding for the dockside monitoring program that ensures commercial fishermen are complying with the controversial sector catch share system and will instead distribute those funds to help fishermen defray their operational costs in meeting those sector requirements.
More workers are toiling into their golden years, exacerbating the job squeeze young people are feeling as they try to enter the labor market, according to a new report from Commonwealth Corp., the state’s quasi-public workforce agency. Tough times for younger workers are nothing new, however. This 2006 story in CommonWealth spotlighted the dreadful employment picture for teens, with a focus on the role immigration was playing in turning this into the worst employment period for young people since World War II.
The Newton School Committee voted to bring Latin back to middle schools and restore 12.6 teaching positions after an unexpected influx of state aid.
The Boston School Committee approved two new in-district charter schools, the Globe reports.
A Harvard Medical School study finds that even people with excellent private health insurance have difficulty getting psychiatric card in the Boston area, WBUR reports.
The Shuttle has landed, for a good long time, Time reports.
Shark researchers are planning to set up underwater listening posts between Truro and Chatham to try to detect when great white sharks get close to beaches — and, in turn, beach goers — in their quest for food.
The Berkshire Eagle, in an editorial, says it’s misleading to describe food as locally grown if it’s trucked in from distant points.
Military and environmental regulators have agreed on an $18.5 million clean-up plan for the largest area of contamination on the Massachusetts Military Reservation on the Upper Cape which was polluted by weapons training and artillery practice over the decades.
Bangkok is sinking, and experts say part of Thailand’s capital will be underwater in 20 years, reports Le Monde via Time.
A Northborough man was charged with drunken driving Tuesday after he crashed his snowmobile into a telephone pole. Fill in your own comment.
Offers are coming in from around the country to help Abington officials pay to replace the copper and bronze stakes that hold memorial medallions that were stolen from some veterans’ graves at the town’s cemetery.
Secret Service and local police are investigating at least three incidents of counterfeit money being passed in Taunton and Raynham over the past week.
The Associated Press plans to start linking back to scoops it picks up for its wire service, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.
News Corp. announced a new code of ethics in the wake of the phone hacking scandal but the Monitor asks experts: Will it make a difference?
On Greater Boston, state Treasurer Steve Grossman and former sports anchor Bob Lobel offer their remembrances of their friend, Myra Kraft, the philanthropic wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who died of cancer Tuesday. More stories on NECN, in the Globe, and in the Herald here, here, and here.