What’s Going On? The Unwarranted Attack Against Prosecutors

I’m going back again at the Globe editorial demanding “prosecutors must answer for actions.”  Yesterday I mentioned it seemed to be an ill-timed intrusion into the governor’s race since nothing it called for needed immediate attention; also, that it twisted the event into one of prosecutorial misconduct when the real problem involved ineffective assistance of defense counsel.

The Globe conjured up the idea there was a problem when the basis upon which it relied showed there was no problem. It suggested there was prosecutorial misconduct when the evidence points to a prosecutor who did his job. It yelled out that the case was brought on “the skimpiest evidence” when the prosecutor was confronted with evidence from six children between the ages of two and four, three boys and three girls, indicating the defendant, Bernard F. Baran, Jr., molested them. I’ll talk more about the editorial tomorrow.

The editorial was based upon an op-ed in the same paper that disingenuously suggested there was a problem by using a quote from an Appeals Court decision that was contrary to the facts that exist. The author of that editorial, Harvey Silverglate, a defense lawyer who was involved in the matters surrounding the Fells Acre Day Care case, which he called a fraud upon the public justice, and the defendant Baran, as I said has an ax to grind. Like any defense lawyer he is interested in making the prosecutor’s job more difficult; or at least trying to cast doubt on the integrity of prosecutors.

Silverglate suggests Baran’s conviction was based on “arguable prosecutor misconduct.”  He suggests it was occasioned by the nationwide hysteria that existed in the 1980s over the allegations of sexual abuse of preschool children. That existed, no doubt. As I mentioned before allegations of such during that time came into the county where I worked as an ADA but quick and thorough investigations by our State Police and Sexual Assault investigators showed them to be unfounded.

There was one case during that time in our office that did involve the issue of sexual abuse of preschool children. In that case a mother murdered her child because she thought that child was being sexually abused and sought to spare her from further abuse. She was abetted in that belief by a psychologist caught up in the hysteria Silverglate mentioned.

The prosecutor in the Baran case had before him evidence from six children who Silverglate said “recited their by-then-practiced abuse narratives.” Silverglate points out there was evidence that contradicted the evidence from those children that was contained on video tapes. Those tapes were made available to the defense counsel by the prosecutor Daniel Ford who has become a Superior Court judge. The defense counsel decided not to make use of them but agrees that they were available.

Silverglate wrote at the time the Appeals Court could not determine if “Ford intentionally buried the exculpatory unedited tapes (which would be a constitutional violation of suppression of evidence). He wrote that while having in front of him a lawyer’s letter telling him such allegation was “absolutely incorrect” and that a transcript exists showing those tapes had been made available to defense counsel. Not willing to wait to see the transcript that made his allegations specious, Silverglate, with the Globe’s connivance, for the Globe also had the lawyer’s letter, published his op-ed.

There has been no wrongdoing yet Silverglate complains “Judge Ford has not been publicly investigated, much less removed from the bench for leading an unjust prosecution that ruined a young man’s life.” He calls for a public investigation by conjuring up problems that don’t exist. He wants “prosecutors to pay for, rather than benefit from, their actions” even though what was done in this case was entirely appropriate. He wants an “open file discovery” policy where “prosecutors share all filed with defense counsel.”  

This policy is already pretty much followed by prosecutors in Massachusetts. It was followed by Daniel Ford. Ask yourself, what is a prosecutor to do with evidence from six children in front of him that a person molested them?

The real complaint in the Baran case is that the defense attorney should have done a better job. Turning his failure into a public inquisition of a prosecutor’s actions, or prosecutors in general, tells me something is going on in the background that is being hidden.  This matter bears very close scrutiny.

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