Baker’s dangerousness bill divides DA candidates
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S effort to bolster the state law allowing defendants to be held before trial has been shelved for now by lawmakers, who call it an unwarranted overreach, but the bill raises important questions about how the system should deal with those charged but not yet convicted of any crime.
The state’s district attorneys are the key players in those proceedings, and the issue is dividing some candidates in this year’s DA races.
The contrast may be most pointed in Plymouth County, where Republican incumbent Timothy Cruz is set to face off in November against Democrat Rahsaan Hall.
Cruz said he supports Baker’s bill. “This legislation would have given the current statute more teeth and would have empowered the criminal justice system to be equipped to effectively prosecute violent offenders, help victims of crime and all citizens feel safe,” he said in a statement.
Hall, who previously served as director of the racial justice program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said it’s important to strike the right balance between concern for victims and for defendants’ rights. “For as much as we need to be concerned about survivors of violent crime and potential victims, we also need to be concerned about individuals who are wrongfully accused, arrested, and or charged with an offense that would subject them to being detained indefinitely without bail,” he said. “We must also be concerned with the racial disparities that result from expanding the reach of this law.”
Cruz said the bill would close dangerous “loopholes” by having state law mirror federal statutes that allow consideration of a defendant’s “history of serious criminal convictions” in determining whether they pose too great a danger to be released.
Defendants are generally allowed to post bail and be released while awaiting trial. Bail is supposed to ensure that they return to court, and is not supposed to serve simply as a means of keeping someone locked up. In a limited set of cases, prosecutors can seek a separate hearing from the one where bail is set where they argue that a defendant poses too great a danger to be released before trial. Baker’s bill would expand the types of cases eligible for such a “dangerousness hearing” to include certain sex crimes, such as indecent assault on a child, and other crimes not currently covered by the statute. It would also allow judges to consider a defendant’s criminal history in making such a ruling, something not permitted currently.
In Essex County, with no Republican on the ballot, the race to succeed Jonathan Blodgett, who is not seeking reelection, will be decided in the September 6 Democratic primary between state Rep. Paul Tucker of Salem and Middleton attorney James O’Shea.
Tucker said he supports many aspects of the bill, including expanding the offenses eligible for a dangerousness hearing. He also said he would support the bill’s provision allowing for a dangerousness hearing after an initial hearing where bail is set. Currently, prosecutors can only seek a dangerousness hearing at the outset of a case.
That issue was spotlighted by a Suffolk County case two years ago in which a convicted sex offender arrested on rape charges was released after a nonprofit bail fund helped pay the $15,000 bail he was held on. He was arrested and charged with violent assault and rape three weeks later.
O’Shea said a bill that includes additional charges eligible for a dangerousness hearing, such as crimes against children, “may make sense,” but he objected to other parts of it, including the use of a defendant’s prior history. “The use of prior convictions” in seeking a dangerousness hearing “raises potential double jeopardy concerns where you are essentially incarcerating someone twice for the same crime,” he said in a statement.
At a forum earlier this month sponsored by the advocacy group JP Progressives, both candidates said they opposed any move to expand pretrial detention.
Law bans hairstyle discrimination: Gov. Charlie Baker signs a law barring discrimination against women with natural or protective hairstyles, a reference to hairstyles used by Black women because of the texture of their hair.
– Mya and Deanna Cook took part in the bill signing in the governor’s office, recounting their experience as 15-year-olds who were disciplined at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden for wearing their hair in box braids. “When we first got our detentions, I never thought we’d be here,” said Deanna. Read more.
Battle over ballot question: Opponents of a ballot question that would regulate dental insurance are asking the Supreme Judicial Court to force Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin to remove what they allege are false statements from a summary of the question submitted by proponents. Galvin calls the lawsuit “frivolous.” Read more.
Lottery records: The Massachusetts Lottery reports record revenue and prize payouts, but comes up short on setting a new high on profits. Read more.
Cannabis bill advice: Shanel Lindsay, Glynn Lloyd, and Shaleen Title offer some advice on how to craft the final cannabis reform bill, stressing more money for the social equity fund and more community input. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Inspector General Glenn Cunha’s five-year term is about to expire and the governor, auditor, and attorney general have not yet appointed his replacement. (Salem News)
The Senate approved a measure establishing a commission to study new highway tolling systems, including one that would charge motorists by miles driven. (Boston Herald)
No companies stepped forward by Tuesday’s deadline to bid on the shuttered town-owned Mohawk Theater in North Adams. (Berkshire Eagle)
Dr. Caitlin Barnard, the Indiana doctor who administered a medication abortion to a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after a rape, says she has been harassed for the care she provided but insisted doctors like her are not shrinking from the task. (NPR)
Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in the state and across the country. (Boston Globe)
The Washington Post says the Justice Department’s wide-ranging probe of the January 6 attack on the Capitol is zeroing in on former president Donald Trump’s role, the first report that Trump himself is part of the criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Television writer and producer Norman Lear pens an op-ed on his 100th birthday expressing concern about the state of American democracy. “To be honest, I’m a bit worried that I may be in better shape than our democracy is.” (New York Times)
A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll finds Joe Biden is underwater in deep-blue Massachusetts, with 48 percent of registered voters disapproving of his performance and 41 percent approving. (Boston Globe)
The same poll finds a majority of voters support a new law allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, with 58 percent in support of keeping it and 34 percent favoring repeal of the law. (Boston Globe)
The Berkshire Innovation Center receives a nearly $1 million grant to launch a manufacturing academy. (Berkshire Eagle)
A new poll finds 8 in 10 state residents are concerned about inflation and their own financial situation. (Boston Globe)
Nonprofits struggle to meet increased need for services as federal funding runs out. (Salem News)
A bill filed for two decades is finally on the move on Beacon Hill. The bill would create a task force to study the creation of a museum and cultural center in Springfield focused on the underground railroad, civil rights, and Black heritage. (MassLive)
The USA Today Network looks at how scorching heat islands were created along the East Coast and their impact on residents’ lives. (Providence Journal)
A lawsuit filed by the Conservation Law Foundation alleging Barnstable was polluting Lewis Bay with nitrogen is dismissed by a judge. (Cape Cod Times)
Federal and country prosecutors in Massachusetts ramp up efforts to deal with white nationalism. (GBH)
Another 23 Massachusetts firefighters with cancer file a federal lawsuit alleging their cancer is linked to PFAS chemicals in their gear or firefighting foam. (Telegram & Gazette)
MEDIASeveral Gannett newspapers publish their third annual reports on diversity in the newsroom. The Patriot Ledger reports on what it has been doing to improve equity through its coverage. The new executive editor of the Telegram & Gazette weighs in on his first day on the job.