Martha Coakley Fought To Keep Innocent People Behind Bars

That a Republican candidate is within reasonable striking distance of winning the US Senate seat which until recently was filled by the late Ted Kennedy underscores what a horrifically bad job the state Democratic Party did in selecting their candidate. State attorney general Martha Coakley has rapidly gained a national reputation for saying incredibly stupid things. As it turns out, however, there are serious reasons why no reasonable person, of either political party, should want to see Coakley in higher office.

Many remember the wave of bizarre day care child abuse cases which swept the country in the ’80s, featuring headline hungry prosecutors taking children to “recovered memory” counseling sessions in order to “discover” abuse which had been perpetrated upon them. Clinton era attorney general Janet Reno made her made her career, in part, by successfully prosecuting cases of ritual child abuse — which later turned out to be false charges.

One of the first of these highly publicized cases in which therapists extracted accusations of ritual abuse from very young children was the Amirault case in Malden, Massachusetts. Dorothy Rabinowitz (who received her 2001 Pulitzer Prize in part for her work in exposing ritual abuse witch hunts that resulted in false convictions) writes about how as Middlesex County district attorney, Martha Coakley fought to keep the surviving members of the Amirault family behind bars even it became clear that the charges against them were false:

…[I]n 1995, when Judge Robert Barton ordered a new trial for the women. Violet, now 72, and Cheryl had been imprisoned eight years. This toughest of judges, appalled as he came to know the facts of the case, ordered the women released at once. Judge Barton—known as Black Bart for the long sentences he gave criminals—did not thereafter trouble to conceal his contempt for the prosecutors. They would, he warned, do all in their power to hold on to Gerald, a prediction to prove altogether accurate.

No less outraged, Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein presided over a widely publicized hearings into the case resulting in findings that all the children’s testimony was tainted. He said that “Every trick in the book had been used to get the children to say what the investigators wanted.” The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly—which had never in its 27 year history taken an editorial position on a case—published a scathing one directed at the prosecutors “who seemed unwilling to admit they might have sent innocent people to jail for crimes that had never occurred.”

It was clear, when Martha Coakley took over as the new Middlesex County district attorney in 1999, that public opinion was running sharply against the prosecutors in the case. Violet Amirault was now gone. Ill and penniless after her release, she had been hounded to the end by prosecutors who succeeded in getting the Supreme Judicial Court to void the women’s reversals of conviction. She lay waiting all the last days of her life, suitcase packed, for the expected court order to send her back to prison. Violet would die of cancer before any order came in September 1997.

That left Cheryl alone, facing rearrest. In the face of the increasing furor surrounding the case, Ms. Coakley agreed to revise and revoke her sentence to time served—but certain things had to be clear, she told the press. Cheryl’s case, and that of Gerald, she explained, had nothing to do with one another—a startling proposition given the horrific abuse charges, identical in nature, of which all three of the Amiraults had been convicted.

No matter: When women were involved in such cases, the district attorney explained, it was usually because of the presence of “a primary male offender.” According to Ms. Coakley’s scenario, it was Gerald who had dragged his mother and sister along. Every statement she made now about Gerald reflected the same view, and the determination that he never go free. No one better exemplified the mindset and will of the prosecutors who originally had brought this case.

Before agreeing to revise Cheryl’s sentence to time served, Ms. Coakley asked the Amiraults’ attorney, James Sultan, to pledge—in exchange—that he would stop representing Gerald and undertake no further legal action on his behalf. She had evidently concluded that with Sultan gone—Sultan, whose mastery of the case was complete—any further effort by Gerald to win freedom would be doomed. Mr. Sultan, of course, refused.

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

On Feb. 20, 2002, six months after the Board of Pardons issued its findings, the governor denied Gerald’s commutation….

That Coakley would fight to keep innocent people behind bars is beyond despicable. That she was even put forward by the Massachusetts Democrats is unfortunate. Such a person does not even deserve a nomination. At this time, however, all reasonable people with any sense of justice should unite in denying Martha Coakley higher office.

13 Responses to Martha Coakley Fought To Keep Innocent People Behind Bars

  • Well, I can agree with this. But I am not thrilled about nor would I support her opponent (Scott Brown) whom is a pro-choice Republican.

  • Eric, don’t make the mistake of making the unobtainable best the enemy of the better. Scott Brown is clearly a better choice than all else on offer in this Massachusetts election because (1) he has a chance of winning and (2) he’s not a member of the Abortion On Demand party like Coakley.

  • I agree with Micha- he is against partial birth abortion, for parental notification, and believes in traditional marriage. He is clearly the “lersser of two evils”. He is also one shot at defeating the health care bill as it stands- which is partiually a piece meal pro-death plan.

  • Why does this not surprise me?

    The writer John Grisham has said that in ten years of practicing law in Mississippi, he found the sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors he dealt with to be ‘straight up guys’. For that reason, he was most surprised and appalled to discover, when looking into some cases in Oklahoma for a non-fiction work, a public prosecutor, agents of the state police, and a technician at the state crime lab all implicated in railroading several innocent men into prison. That particular prosecutor is re-elected every few years and has been in office for nearly three decades. The institutional culture of law enforcement is deeply diseased here, there, and the next place. This is tolerated by the political class and the public in these loci, go figure.

  • From a political point of view, an elected prosecutor or sheriff, or one with aspirations to another elected office, has more to lose by letting guilty people go free (remember Willie Horton?) than by keeping innocent or possibly innocent persons in prison. So in a case where any doubt still exists about the guilt of a defendant who has already been convicted and imprisoned, they will likely err on the side of NOT dropping charges against that defendant, until the evidence of the defendant’s innocence becomes overwhelming (and sometimes not even then, as evidenced by Coakley’s actions).

    Most voters also fear becoming victims of crime far more than they worry about being falsely accused of a crime, and vote accordingly.

    On the other hand, when it comes to cases not yet adjudicated, many prosecutors will plea bargain or drop cases that are anything less than “open and shut,” rather than bring them to trial, so that they appear to have a higher rate of success in gaining convictions.

  • The irony is in this case a pro-choice Republican may do more to advance the pro-life cause than an pro-life Democrat like Ben Nelson.

  • As our country is heading towards bankruptcy, businesses are afraid to hire people because of all the new socialist anti-business policies that are coming down the pipe. Government is the main sector that is expanding, thanks to the billions they have frittered away in the name of stimulus, and also paying off the people who got them elected. They take the peoples money and give themselves enormous retirement and pension packages amounting to in some cases millions of $, while they spend tens of millions to fly on private jets and do photo-ops in Denmark.

    They were gonna soak the rich to pay for all this, but then they realized that they are the rich, so now they are going to soak the middle class and tax peoples healthcare to pay for their corrupt healthcare raquet, concocted behind closed doors, were everyone makes out and tax payers are left holding the bag. Nothings wrong with some kind of a safety net, but they want to make it so people have a fundamental right to goods and services provided by others, which is undiluted socialism.

    I live in Mass, and the taxes are out of control, and the’ve carefully hidden alot of it so you pay more for stuff, now they double tax alcohol to. While they drive productive business out of the state, the government programs keep expanding to no end, making people dependent on government and ruining the middle class to pay for it all.

    To anyone who’s listening, we HAVE TO ELECT SCOTT BROWN on the 19th, and get some sanity and balance back in Washington. He’s the lesser of the evils.

  • The horrifying Amirault case, in and of itself, provides more than enough reason to vote against Coakley. Gerard Amirault, who is still classed as a Level 3 sex offender, has to wear an ankle bracelet, must not enter certain neighborhoods, and has other restrictions on him that make it impossible for him to find gainful employment – despite the fact that everyone with an IQ higher than a potted plant knows the man is innocent.

    While Coakley was doing her part to deny justice to the Amiraults, she was remarkably tolerant when it came to a real sex offender:

    “In October 2005, a Somerville police officer living in Melrose raped his 23-month-old niece with a hot object, most likely a curling iron.
    Keith Winfield, then 31, told police he was alone with the toddler that day and made additional statements that would ultimately be used to convict him.
    But in the aftermath of the crime, a Middlesex County grand jury overseen by Martha Coakley, then the district attorney, investigated without taking action.
    It was only after the toddler’s mother filed applications for criminal complaints that Coakley won grand jury indictments charging rape and assault and battery.
    Even then, nearly 10 months after the crime, Coakley’s office recommended that Winfield be released on personal recognizance, with no cash bail. He remained free until December 2007, when Coakley’s successor as district attorney won a conviction and two life terms.
    Coakley, now the Democratic candidate for US Senate, has made much of her record prosecuting crimes against children, and says her office handled this investigation appropriately. But the case stands out as one in which she drew criticism for not being aggressive enough. Indeed, the case gave rise to Coakley’s last competitive election.”

    Ironically, Coakley’s gaffe about Kurt Schilling being a Yankee fan has probably been more harmful than the fact that she persecuted an innocent family and gave a pass to a man who committed an incredibly depraved and evil crime.

  • The Amirault and Winfield cases are not funny in the slightest. However, the incredible number of gaffes Coakley has made during the last week are. She is giving Joe Biden a run for his money. I am now absolutely mesmerized by this train wreck of a campaign. I picture some hapless staffer at the Onion pounding his head against his desk as he reads the latest idiocy to come out of Coakley’s mouth and crying out to his boss, “How can we possibly top what she really says!”

  • So a man rapes a 23 month old child with a curling iron, and “law and justice” Coakley recommends no bail. Interesting

  • Speaking of “no reasonable person”, this just arrived in my inbox from the Catholic Democrats, who for some reason have me on their mailing list:

    Catholic Democrats is endorsing Attorney General Martha Coakley to fill Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election.

    “This is a critical election for advancing Catholic Social Justice priorities,” said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. “Martha Coakley supports expanding access to health care, protecting our natural environment through the creation of a strong green economy, and helping to alleviate poverty through greater economic opportunity. Her record as Attorney General demonstrates that she is a tough but fair voice for all of our citizens.”

    Well.

  • DarwinCatholic: Wow.

    You know, it’s fair to criticize Brown because he is only a bit less pro-abort than Coakley. But the truth of the matter is that no true pro-lifer would stand a chance in a MA Senate race. Now who’s fault is that? MA has a high percentage of nominally Catholic voters and yet most of them do not consider abortion to be a “social justice” issue, unless you’re talking about denying women their “right” to kill their baby. If voters don’t give a hoot about an issue, the pols of either party certainly won’t.

    It’s groups like “Catholic Democrats,” who assure MA Catholics that no matter what that pesky Pope says, they’re right to vote for Kennedy and Frank and Coakley that bear much of the blame for the situation.

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