Defenders in the News

Hello and welcome to the second edition of Defenders in the News

On the last Friday of every month we will publish a list of news items, awards or big decisions involving anyone under the CPCS banner. If we missed anything, or if you spot an article that needs to be included in the weeks ahead, feel free to send it to CPCS Communications Director Bob McGovern at: [email protected]

Cristina Rodrigues, a CPCS staff attorney, won the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ prestigious Hines-Burnham Award for her outstanding contribution to racial justice and civil rights. The Hines-Burnham award is reserved for attorneys who have demonstrated excellence and innovation within the first 10 years of criminal defense practice.

Joe Schneiderman, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a Boston Herald article about his victory in Commonwealth v. Ulani. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated a contempt judgment against a juvenile, and found that a lower court judge abused her discretion by not taking the teenager’s status as a juvenile into account. Schneiderman called the decision “a banner, positive, landmark win for children throughout the commonwealth. Children in juvenile court shall not be treated as criminals.”

Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel for CPCS’s Public Defender Division, was interviewed by GBH about the resumption of jury trials. Gioia said, “we all know that studies have shown that racial and ethnic minorities have suffered disproportionately from COVID, and they’re less receptive to taking the vaccine. We’re concerned that they’ll be less likely to appear for jury duty, and an accused person won’t have a jury that represents a fair cross section of the community, like the person is entitled to.”

Jeffrey Baler, a private panel attorney, earned a victory for his client in Commonwealth v. Williams, where the Supreme Judicial Court vacated a murder conviction because “the trial judge abused his discretion in excusing a juror who professed an inability to begin deliberations anew after the discharge of another juror.”

Jacqueline M. Dutton, Attorney-in-Charge of the combined District and Superior Court Office in Worcester, was quoted by the Telegram in its piece about Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. failing to disclose information about an integrity unit created after a complaint about the Worcester PD. Dutton said, “I would expect, as a lawyer, under ethical rules to do justice, that they would want to follow up on concerns about integrity — even just to say, ‘We looked into it, and there’s nothing there.’”

Anne Stevenson, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a Patch article about Marblehead’s search for a new police chief. Stevenson said “civil rights and equality are things that we need to look at, and make sure that the new candidate is going to put us in a good position and shares our values in that respect.”

Victoria Bleier, a staff attorney, was quoted in a CommonWealth Magazine piece about the effect the pandemic has had on the child welfare system in Massachusetts. Bleier said, “there are huge due process implications with terminating a parent’s rights and permanently severing the connection a child has with the parent over Zoom.”

James Doyle, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a New Yorker article about Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist who studies how false memories can affect our daily lives. Doyle said that Loftus’ “work changed the whole story of what an eyewitness case was about, and destabilized a solid and routine part of the criminal caseload.”

A CPCS staff attorney and her client were quoted in a Marshall Project article about how video chats replaced in-person visits between parents and their children placed in foster care. The client, discussing the practice, said “it’s just impossible to bond with her over the screen. Ever since, I’ve been asking basically, ‘Can I hold my daughter?’”

Lisa Billowitz, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a Boston Globe article about the Supreme Judicial Court reducing the sentence of her client, Raymond Conception, from first degree murder to second degree murder due to his cognitive impairment. Billowitz said she was “pleased that the SJC held that Raymond’s unusual vulnerabilities — including his intellectual disability and the coercion by adult gang members — warranted a reduction to second-degree murder, with an earlier opportunity for parole.”

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