To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
Recently the Boston Bar Association released a new report, Getting It Right: Improving the Accuracy and Reliability of the Criminal Justice System in Massachusetts .The BBA Task Force that produced this report was appointed by the BBA's immediate past president, Kathy Weinman, and co-chaired by David E. Meier of Todd & Weld and Martin F. Murphy of Foley Hoag, and consisted of twenty individuals representing the broadest possible group ofprofessionals from the criminal justice system. The Task Force was made up of senior law enforcement officials, a former chief justice of the Massachusetts State Appeals Court, a senior scientist from the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, a senior attorney from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, leaders in the New England Innocence Project, chief counsel for the state's public defender agency, state prosecutors, and criminal defense attorneys, many of whom areformer federal and state prosecutors themselves.
The Task Force worked for over fourteen months on the central premise that for every defendant wrongly convicted, a criminal goes free and society remains at risk, while the individual who has escaped the consequences of his/her actions is free to commit crimes against other victims.
Getting it Right makes three recommendations, including two proposals for new legislation.The first recommendation focuses on the creation of evidence collection protocols and training in best practices for evidence collection.These procedures have already been instituted by many police departments, including the Boston Police Department.
The first piece of legislation would provide post-conviction access to and testing of forensic evidence and biological material for defendants who claim factual innocence.Currently, Massachusetts is one of only four states that does not have such a post-conviction forensic evidence statute.
The second piece of legislation would expand the membership of Masssachusetts' Forensic Sciences Advisory Board (FSAB) to include three laboratory scientists, as well as three members of the bar with experience in criminal practice and forensic science issues.Right now there are no scientists on the board.The addition of scientists and members of the bar would provide a range of perspectives from those professionals who depend upon the state's forensic science system.
The Boston Bar Association looks forward to working with the Massachusetts Legislature to implement the recommendations of the Task Force. Getting It Right and the legislation it proposes exemplify what can be accomplished by a metropolitan bar association blessed with talented lawyers willing to expend their time, talent and political capital to help their community.