Healey's hypocrisy

In the matter of the LaGuer controversy, Patrick was a disappointment, but the Lt. Governor was a disgrace
By EDITORIAL  |  October 20, 2006

UNFAIR GAME: The Benjamin LaGuer saga is bringing out the worst in both Healey and Patrick.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) established a long time ago that while those accused of a crime in this state are not entitled to a perfect trial, they should receive at least a fair trial.

That inconvenient fact of legal life has been shamefully lost on Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey in her smarmy and mendacious attempt to smear Deval Patrick, her Democratic rival for governor, as being soft on crime by virtue of his real — but hardly crusading — association with the case of convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer.

Twenty-two years after LaGuer was convicted, the question of whether he received a fair trial is still very much alive. In just two months the SJC will hear oral arguments that could result in a new hearing. The state’s highest court has agreed to review LaGuer’s claim that fingerprint evidence, hidden from him by police at the time of his trial, could clear him of the crime. The court grants this form of judicial review to only four percent of the cases seeking a place on its docket. Does this relatively rare occurrence mean that LaGuer is innocent? No. But it does mean that people have real reason to question whether LaGuer received a fair trial that produced an accurate result.

If a new trial results, it will be yet another black mark against the quality of justice in Massachusetts. In Suffolk County alone, ten convictions of serious, violent crimes — including rape and murder — have been overturned in the last decade. Included in that sorry tally is the 2004 exoneration of Stephan Cowans, who was wrongfully found to have shot a Boston Police officer. Not quite two weeks ago, a federal judge found that another man would have been entitled to more than $13 million for his 1987 wrongful conviction for rape, had he chosen to accept a settlement.

Are we to visit the horror that families of victims suffer on innocent families as well? Does that provide society with any benefit? Healey appears to think so. In her book, any conviction will suffice, even a bad or a wrongful one.

Healey’s breezy tough-gal position is designed to obscure the reality that the Romney-Healey administration has made it more difficult for cities and towns to police themselves due to the budget cuts it has sponsored. Her sleazy attacks on Patrick divert attention from the deafening silence she assumed when murder rates in Boston hit a ten-year high. And her deceit and deception allows her to wallow in hollow headlines that credit her with sponsoring a sex-offender registry, while allowing her boss, Romney, to gut funding for it.

When it comes to public safety, Healey is all talk and no action. So it should come as no surprise that she is indifferent to any larger issues of justice. As for common decency, that’s something that Healey, who is behind in the polls, is willing to shelve if she can make political hay with indecent attacks.

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