Letting the DA skate

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  June 20, 2007

Still, the most important criticism of Conley from black community leaders is that he fails to lock up bad guys who hurt black men.

Although both the BPD and Conley’s office insist that they give all cases equal attention, the disparity of case results is striking. Under Conley’s direction, arrests have been made in just 28 percent of murders in which the victim was a black man age 17 to 45, compared with 66 percent of all other murders.

Some defense attorneys suggest that this disproportion has less to do with racism, and more to do with desperation to bring even half-cooked charges in high-profile cases — namely, those involving women, children, or white victims. It is those weak cases that have been most often rejected by juries.

Under Conley’s watch, accused killers have been acquitted in cases in which the victims included a 14-year-old pregnant girl; a three-year-old boy; a 10-year-old girl shot in a park; a 16-year-old stabbed to death on a subway platform; a 15-year-old boy assassinated in broad daylight; and a 16-year-old shot after a dance party, among many others.

Once and future pol
The ambivalence of Boston’s black citizens toward Conley has not yet hurt him politically. (In part, because African-Americans make up a smaller percentage in the county, which includes Revere, Winthrop, and Chelsea, than in Boston alone.) But it could, if he still has hopes of one day being elected mayor, which many believe he does — though few suppose he can achieve it.

However, others say that Conley now has a different game plan: an appointment to the superior court bench.

That may be a long shot, too, since Governor Deval Patrick will be filling court openings for the foreseeable future. Conley, who was appointed by Republican Jane Swift and maintains strong ties with Cellucci’s circle, did not support Patrick’s candidacy, and heaped praise on opponent Kerry Healey during passage of a gang bill. He also conspicuously failed to rise to Patrick’s defense — as did many other Democratic prosecutors and sheriffs — when Healey attacked Patrick’s past defense of a man on death row, and his advocacy on behalf of convicted rapist Ben LaGuer.

Conley insists he has the only job he wants. As evidence of his interest and engagement, he points to initiatives including eyewitness-identification reform, use of a second grand jury, a dedicated gun court, the recently opened Family Justice Center, an anti-violence program for schools, and a Teen Prostitution Prevention Program. “I plan on running for re-election in 2010,” Conley says. “I have every intention of staying here as long as they let me.”

On the Web
David Bernstein's Talking Politics: http://www.thephoenix.com/talkingpolitics

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