January 13, 2010

RADLEY BALKO ON MARTHA COAKLEY’S TROUBLING CAREER AS A PROSECUTOR:

Last year, Coakley chose to personally argue her state’s case before the Supreme Court in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Despite the recent headlines detailing forensic mishaps, fraudulent testimony and crime lab incompetence, Coakley argued that requiring crime lab technicians to be present at trial for questioning by defense attorneys would place too large a burden on prosecutors. The Supreme Court found otherwise, in a decision that had Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia coming down on Coakley’s left.

The Melendez-Diaz case wasn’t an anomaly. Coakley has made her reputation as a law-and-order prosecutor. More troubling, she’s shown a tendency to aggressively push the limits of the law in high-profile cases and an unwillingness to cop to mistakes — be they her own or those of other prosecutors . . . Wall Street Journal reporter Dorothy Rabinowitz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of bogus sex abuse cases, recently told The Boston Globe of the Amirault case, “Martha Coakley was a very, very good soldier who showed she would do anything to preserve this horrendous assault on justice.” According to journalist Mark Pendergrast, Coakley herself prosecuted another questionable child abuse case in 1993, using the same recovered-memory testimony and now-discredited methods of questioning children to convict Ray and Shirley Souza of molesting their grandchildren.

It’s probably not surprising, then, that as DA in Middlesex County, Coakley opposed efforts to create an innocence commission in Massachusetts, calling the idea “backward-looking instead of forward-looking.” Of course, that’s sort of the point — to find people who have been wrongfully convicted. So far, there have been at least 23 exonerations in Massachusetts, including several in Coakley’s home county.

Read the whole thing.

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