Who Judges the Judges?

Recently a judge named McGuire overturned a conviction of a man who was sentenced to life in prison for murder. He is the nephew of another judge who sat in superior court.  Other than the relationship I know nothing about McGuire other than he is from Fall River the home of the Battleship USS Massachusetts.

McGuire heard a case involving a guy who was convicted thirty years ago of murdering another guy. He, like most other guys in prison, has proclaimed his innocence. Three times he has tried to get the verdict of the jury reversed so that he could get a new trial and get out of doing additional time. Two times before other judges he was unsuccessful. This time he had the good fortune of having the nephew as his judge.

It’s always good to get a new trial after 30 years. The ability of a prosecutor to resurrect a case after that time is nigh on impossible. In effect the guy will go scot-free.

This guy now age 50 was alleged to have committed the murder when he was nineteen years old. Now I don’t know about you but spending your twenties, thirties, and forties in in prison is a helluva hard punishment, an awfully long time. I know the guy was convicted of taking a life and for that should be punished severely but 30 years, and facing the prospect of another 30 years if he lives to 80, or a total of 60 years seems extremely unconscionable especially since it seemed the murder occurred on the spur of the moment perhaps during an argument with no pre-planning and no known motive or relationship between the convicted and victim.

We know that the most brutal of all murderers John “Murderman” Martorano only did 12 years for twenty murders; Steve “Benji” Flemmi did hardly any more time for more than ten murders; and Kevin “Two” Weeks did six years for five murders. How is it then that one guy has already done 30 years for one murder?

The guy’s name who got sprung is Darrell Jones. The murder he was convicted off took place in Brockton in November, 1985, when Guillermo Rodrigues  was shot in a parking lot. The evidence against Jones was weak at best. No one identified him in court as the shooter. The evidence identifying him was clearly hearsay and I have no idea how it was admissible. Even so Jones’s appeal got no more than a cursory handshake by the Supreme Judicial Court which upheld his conviction.

I have no problem with the guy getting out. I do however have a problem with Judge McGuire. His statement that “race was an important issue in the community” because one man thought it unusual a black man entered a particular establishment seemed odd. How does the opinion of one man turn into the view of the community.

Add to that McGuire’s language, “The circumstances were that a black man killed a light skin Hispanic man. Our Commonwealth has had a long, sad history of racial bias that exists today.” The latter sentence is footnoted to: “See, e.g. Boston Sunday Globe Spotlight Series, “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality. ” (Dec. 10, 2017)” 

How the Globe’s series becomes the subject of judicial notice escapes me. Are we now to accept its conclusion as satisfactory proof that everyone is racially biased? McGuire is called upon to decide if a juror was biased and supports his conclusion by saying he must have been because the Globe tells us that is the case.

McGuire held evidentiary hearings. One female juror testified that 30 years earlier before deliberations began a male juror who  she could not identify asked that an immediate vote be taken because he believed Jones was guilty. The female asked:“Well, what makes you say that, that he is guilty.” He just repeated he was guilty. She then said: “Are you saying that because he’s black?” He answered, “Yes.”  Later he said, “I’ll say anything just to get out of here.”

My take is the guy was hardly serious about the comment. The female brought the issue of race up. He just passed it off with a yes not wanting to get into a discussion with her. Not only that he wanted to get his jury duty over as quickly as possible thinking it an open and shut case even though it wasn’t..

McGuire looked for support for the female. He brought in three other jurors looking to support her. None of them heard the interaction. All denied there was racial bias in the jury decision. Even though the one off statement was not supported, nor was it shown that it played any part in the verdict if it was stated, McGuire decided without more that the male juror “was  racially biased” and “he did not say it in a manner that indicated the statement should be construed in any way except at face value.”

The female juror testified  the juror she hardly knew was serious, not joking nor sarcastic when saying “Yes.”  How she was able to gain that observation from one word is somewhat amazing as is the judge’s conclusion about the unknown juror’s state of mind from stating one word. McGuire added:“if the juror intended to comment on the evidence, he would have mentioned the evidence.”  How would that have happened before deliberations began  is when the jurors are told not to discuss the evidence until they begin deliberating.

McGuire’s decisio