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State's highest court tells rural and suburban DAs to keep their noses out of Suffolk County's business

The Supreme Judicial Court yesterday told the district attorneys from the Cape and Islands, Norfolk, Essex and Plymouth counties that no, they cannot intervene in a Suffolk County murder case that has nothing to do with their rural and suburban communities, even if it could ultimately lead to a decision that they don't like.

As reported by Yvonne Abraham at the Globe, at issue is an SJC decision in a case in which two teens, one 17, one 18, were convicted and sentenced for fatally shooting one teen and injuring another on Geneva Avenue in Dorchester in 2011.

The 17-year-old, Nyasani Watts, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 15 years, based on a 2013 ruling saying life without parole for people up to 18 is cruel and unusual punishment. But the 18-year-old, Sheldon Mattis, who did not pull the trigger but who did give the younger teen the gun and then celebrated with him afterwards, was sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

In its ruling last month, the state's highest court upheld the convictions, but sent the then 18-year-old's case back to Suffolk Superior Court, for a judge to consider the issue of whether new research into the "developmental traits of young people" means that Mattis should have gotten a similar sentence to Watts. The justices said that it is, perhaps, time for them to re-evaluate their age-18 cutoff for such treatment, and said a Superior Court judge should let Mattis's attorney make the case.

And here is where the four DAs decided to try to jump into the case. As Abraham reports, they filed an unusual request with the court to either not send the case down to Superior Court or that they be allowed to intervene as parties to the case, to basically argue before in a Suffolk County court against the Suffolk County DA's office on what they assumed would be DA Rachael Rollins's willingness to consider the possibility that people up to 22 might have brain developmental issues that would warrant treatment similar to what the SJC mandates for defendants 17 or younger - at a minimum, a hearing on whether their age makes them ineligible for a sentence of life without parole.

The SJC swatted them down yesterday, denying their request, although without prejudice, which means they could try again.

The four DAs filed their motion even though Rollins's office in fact argued to uphold the sentences against the two murderers. In its written brief on the case for the SJC, the Suffolk DA's office acknowledged that Rollins is in favor of reconsidering the current age limit, but only if done through the state legislature:

While the District Attorney supports legislation that contemplates the expansion of the statutory sentencing scheme for juveniles convicted of murder to include emerging adults, the legislative process would ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including the District Attorney, have the opportunity to weigh in on this important change.

In their request, a copy of which Abraham posts, the four DAs acknowledge their bid to intervene is "foreign" to the way justice works in Massachusetts, but said the fact that Rollins might argue against a sentence of life without parole for Mattis, even after her brief explicitly said she would not, is so potentially damaging to cases they might try in their own jurisdictions, they should be allowed to send their own assistant DAs into court to argue against Mattis.

Rollins was having none of it; in her reply, she wrote:

The suggestion that their assistance is required is as misogynistic and paternalistic as it is racist.

Of possible note is that one of the four DAs, Cape and Islands DA Micahel O'Keefe, was the guy who wrote a Globe op-ed about five months after Rollins took office in 2019 to argue that the cause of crime in Boston, a city well outside his district, is Black kids in saggy pants who listen to the hip hop.

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The four DAs filed their motion even though Rollins's office in fact argued to uphold the sentences against the two murderers.
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[The DAs] said the fact that Rollins might argue against a sentence of life without parole for Mattis, even after her brief explicitly said she would not, is so potentially damaging to cases they might try in their own jurisdictions, they should be allowed to send their own assistant DAs into court to argue against Mattis.

So, they wanted to present arguments against something that was not likely to happen, that they DA in whose jurisdiction the case was resident said was not going to happen. They don't have something better for their ADAs to do?

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Voting closed 40

It cost $35,000/yr to keep someone in jail in MA. That's a whole lotta cash.

There's got to be a better way to keep someone out of trouble and not cost the state 1/2 million over the course of a jail sentence in which they'll still most likely need public support when they get released on account of having nothing to show after 15 years of waiting.

And endless cycle of poverty and prison helps no one. Rollins seems to get that.

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Voting closed 59

Exactly. The 18 year old should be punished, but keeping them in jail for the rest of their life is a waste of our tax dollars and a waste of their life.

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or over should be treated as such.

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Sounds like these 4 DAs don't have the moral compass required to hold their positions.

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On the substantive matters, I agree with the SJC that these 4 DA should butt out. And I agree with Rollins's legislative preference that we consider expanding juv sentencing guidelines.

But Rollins is going to need to convince me that this filing was motivated in any part by racial or sexist bias. She's a black woman, but not everything that happens to her is because she's a black woman. I've heard this particular tune from her one too many times.

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Voting closed 49

She's a black woman, but not everything that happens to her is because she's a black woman. I've heard this particular tune from her one too many times.

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Yes, you are obviously in a better position than a black woman to determine misogynistic racist behaviour. She should always take the extra step to get your opinion before making those conclusions.

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Show me where I said I was in a better position. Show me where I said she needed my weigh-in before filing her brief. Why would you make these absurd mischaracterizations?

What I said was: I need to see evidence of sexist or racist motivation before I believe Rollins's claim, especially as she seems to toss around these allegations quite freely. Not every allegation of sexism must be believed because it comes from a woman, nor every allegation of racism because it comes from a POC.

As for potential non-bigoted motives, isn't it possible that the 4 DAs made this motion because they feel that Rollins doesn't share their view on the role of a DA? There are other possible motives, meaning evidence of one or the other is necessary.

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What I said was: I need to see evidence of sexist or racist motivation before I believe Rollins's claim, especially as she seems to toss around these allegations quite freely. Not every allegation of sexism must be believed because it comes from a woman, nor every allegation of racism because it comes from a POC

All claims of racism or sexism must be validated by me.

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In this case, she said she was not going to do something, in writing, and here they are still. Why do they think she would not do what she said she would? She not incompetent or a novice, so you start running out of reasons to legitimize why they are so certain they need to argue this (seemingly moot) point.

I think mysogynoir is on the table unless they can prove otherwise.

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But Rollins is going to need to convince me that this filing was motivated in any part by racial or sexist bias.

You're asking to be convinced that the filing was motivated by racial or sexist bias.

Four men who know they have know jurisdiction attempt to interfere with legal process. While correlation does not mean causation even in criminal trials circumstantial evidence is enough to convict.

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They should not be treated as such, either.

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They should not be treated as such, either.

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Why does Rollins frequently resort to the misogynistic, paternalistic, and racist buttons? These four DAs are trying to intervene because they're racist? She believes that? Or because they're men and they know better than her? She believes that too? Give me a break. What a snowflake.

The four DAs have no case and are grossly overreaching. Rollins should just destroy their arguments on the merits. Then she can go back to being "deeply troubled" about the skyrocketing violence in the city.

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did you read the linked op-ed?

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And since I remember when Ralph Martin was Suffolk D.A. and recall the whole host of female Middlesex D.A.s, I’d say that Rollins is taking what is basically a policy disagreement and spinning it into an issue of race and sex. Heck, I completely see her point on the substantive issue, but people of the same race, sex, political party, or whatever can and do have similar disagreements all the time.

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Everyone can disagree. But wasting the time of an underfunded court system is beyond just simple disagreement. This is wasting your tax dollars and mine.

The other DAs can disagree in print, pixels or speeches. But they wasted tax money on an anti-knight errand they knew they would loose.

That kind of reach strongly implies that this is more than just a professional disagreement.

In other words, I hear this question from the DAs who knew they had no business in this waste of money: "Who does this black woman think she is?"

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I heard the DA's saying "this progressive DA is going to help make the precedent that 21 year olds aren't adults, so we need to step in and provide a counter, since the law says 18 year olds have the cognitive ability of adults to make decisions."

Again, there is a policy disagreement. This kind of reminds me of how people cast the Republicans' opposition to Obamacare as somehow racist even though they did the same thing with the idea of government expanding its role in healthcare when Clinton was President.

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...somehow racist even though they did the same thing with the idea of government expanding its role in healthcare when Clinton was President.

I don't know if their opposition to better health care is racist, but you don't think the Republicans were racists then?

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The opposition to government control of the healthcare system is not evidence of racism.

Of course, one might look at the GOP’s support of various crime bills during that time period as being racist, but those who might posit that would be wise to avoid looking at roll call votes on said bills.

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The DA of Suffolk County makes a lot of claims but has she ever considered that maybe she is just not a great person to work with? The DA is supposed to have a working relationship with the police but her relationship with both of the people on the ground and the black man in charge of the whole structure is tense. Much of that tension coming from her continued used of terms like murderers when talking about cops in general. Just the other day she pulled out old dirty laundry when she Tweeted negatively at the black County Sheriff, another office she in theory should have a working relationship with. Let us not forget the public defenders and how she is oh so not professional with them either. Is it any shock to anyone at all that she would also not get along with the other DA's? I sadly voted for her and I actually believe in quite a bit of what she stands for but her behavior is beneath the dignity of the office and those that defend her inability to operate in a professional manner are exactly the same types of people who run around trying to convince us that Trump is misunderstood.

The office of the DA is generally one that others suck up to , as they have a tremendous amount of power. The fact that she holds this position at the time she does and she somehow still can't manage to figure out how to solve conflicts without screaming into Twitter concerns me. I am sick of politicians who seem more concerned with hearts on Twitter and winning over their base then actually doing their jobs that we pay them to do.

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The State Police are proven to be an insular organization where its members believe they are above the law. It is a poor reputation but Massachusetts has a reputation as the Louisiana of the north. The biggest difference is that the legislators only let corruption in government run riot when no one notices.

We have legislators who, for the most part, listen to the electorate. But only based on overwhelming sentiments. Unfortunately they still ignore constituents until the constituents are loud enough to threaten their reelection (looking at you Liz).

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Your basic premise is that her position is, "The office of the DA is generally one that others suck up to...."

What if Rachel Rollins is less concerned about using her position like a Medici to grant favors in exchange for favors and actually is concerned about justice?

Based upon my direct experience, even in Massachusetts justice is not always based on right and wrong. The civil system is a failure. The court system is failing because it is, thanks to the legislature and voters, anorexic.

Want to learn what the court system is like? Fall into a law suit where you were harmed. Good luck.

Without the rats and typhoid (but now we have coronavirus) the system of imprisonment is becoming just another method of putting people into zoos where they cease to be human.

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“The suggestion that their assistance is required is as misogynistic and paternalistic as it is racist.“

Rollins hit that on the nose. Those four need to butt out and stop wasting taxpayer’s money and obstructing justice.

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Yup. You have to ask, would they attack her so often and so strongly if she were a white male? I think not.

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Rollins doesn’t do any of this work the assistant DAs do (they are more qualified regardless of race or gender over her and other County DAs)

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These minor-league DA's didn't object to anything Rollins or her assistants did, but what they thought she might do, despite her having declined to do it. This certainly suggests that they were objecting to the person, and not the office.

Rollins shouldn't have said what she did about their motives, even though she was almost certainly right, because as a DA she should know better than to make charges she can't prove.

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This is what I'd expect the white cop to say.

So tell me, officer, what possible legitimate reason would these men have for butting in on someone else's jurisdiction if it's not, you know, racist misogyny?

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Who are better attorneys than Rachel Rollins in 1000 different ways. (And 10,000 times better than the white male political hack DAs in suburban counties)

Oh...did your lazy ass bias think something different because you’ve never been in a court room in your life?

Thought so.

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Your dislike of Rollins is purely based on her lawyerin' techniques. Got it, officer.

I noticed you can't answer my question about why these men should be butting in on her jurisdiction.

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And what men are you talking about? Rollins is fine, she just isn’t doing the work here. The other women are. Are you ok?

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No one here is defending the merits of the 4 DAs' attempted intervention.

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Pete, you have defended the graft of police details. Anything you write about criminal justice I question.

But what is your point in your statement here?

More important, so what? Four DAs who knew they had NO jurisdiction still wasted the time of the court system. Do you realize that the court system is so underfunded that every minute wasted is taking justice away from people who need the application of law?

Wow.

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And I’ve never really defended them, only pointed out that the city saves millions every year in health care costs and surcharge fees because they negotiate unions to pay for these items in exchange for detail wages that the city gets a cut for. Either way details have nothing to do with criminal justice or brain development of youths which is what the issue is here.

I think your just mad because you thought gun rights was about joining the national guard and then a week later the national guard is rolling into cities and were about two protests away from slaughtering American civilians....?

You seem intelligent Daan but your common sense meter is near the bottom of the battle. This court case isn’t about anything you just typed about.

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But they can be excused because it's less than $250 worth of misogyny and paternalism.

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I guess we now know who all those trolls who said she would be soft on crime were.

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Taking on a Black DA over something like this while giving the Sheriff Joe of Massachusetts, Tom Hodgson, a pass on his racist antics. Blue state, my culo.

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A butt licker of Benedict Donald? Oh no...can not be so. Just because he is the honorary chair the Trump for Dictator campaign is no reason to disparage a man who would charge inmates room and board.

That is an idea. Charge inmates room and board. Except that most lived week to week never saving the money. Although this something that was perfectly fine in 18th century England (along with rats and typhoid, albeit with coronavirus today).

Of course using them as slave labor to fulfill the fantasies of Benedict Donald is another way to mete out justice. Given Benedict Donald's beliefs about slavery this actualy makes perverted sense.

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