Courts, Crime & Police

On Beacon Hill, a Reaction to Arizona

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Monday, June 25, 2012
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June 25, 2012

 
BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — who has advocated for immigrant needs in the past — praised the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down key provisions of Arizona's crackdown on immigrants on June 25. But Patrick wasn't entirely satisfied. He called the Supreme Court ruling a mixed bag.
 
“Most of the provisions of the Arizona law have been ruled unconstitutional. That sounds right," he said. However, "some of the things that were preserved having to do with the ability to stop and ask questions, you know, you can see how that creates a climate of fear, especially if the Supreme Court has said you can’t actually do anything with that information.”
 
Patrick has favored expanding immigrant health care options, allowing in-state UMass tuition rates and providing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. But some advocates said he has failed to push immigration issues strongly enough on Beacon Hill.
 
As he was leaving his office, Patrick got into a heated exchange with students demanding a stronger stance.
 
“You know you said you were going to do something for us — at least give us licenses. I’m undocumented and I've been here for 8 years, I'm putting myself through school right now, I'm paying out-of-state [tuition]," one woman said.
 
"And I can’t do what the federal government won’t let me do," Patrick responded. "I tried to do that. But there's a federal law that prohibits it."
 
"We can’t just live in the shadows!" she said.
 
"I understand that! I’m on your side," Patrick said. "I’ve said that a million times. These provisions aren’t before me yet. I’ve been as clear as possible, not just with you but with the legislature, that if they come to me, it’s over,“
 
There are measures pending in the legislature that would require new immigration status checks for employment, state housing and driver's licenses. Patrick said if they get to his desk he’ll oppose them, though he didn’t explicitly promise a veto.

Still Waiting for the Health Care Decision

By Bob Seay   |   Monday, June 25, 2012
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June 25, 2012


The Supreme Court health care ruling is now expected to come down this Thursday, June 28. While we all drum our fingers, law expert Renée Landers reviewed the four possible scenarios and explains the ramifications of each. 

Greig Appeals 8-Year Sentence

By Adam Reilly & Wires   |   Tuesday, June 12, 2012
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June 13, 2012


Catherine Greig
Catherine Greig. (Mugshot)
 

BOSTON — A lawyer for Catherine Greig, 61, the girlfriend of James "Whitey" Bulger, has filed a notice saying she will appeal her sentence. On June 12, Greig was given 96 months in prison for her role in helping him avoid capture for over 16 years. She must also pay a $150,000 fine.

Greig pleaded guilty in March to charges of conspiracy to harbor a fugitive and identity fraud. Speaking after the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she got the punishment she deserved. "Miss Greig was no victim. She made choices of her own free will. And so as a result she's paying the price for those choices that she made," she said. 
 
Five family members delivered emotional victim impact statements earlier that day. One man, referencing the suicide of Greig's brother, said to her, “I could see why your brother killed himself. I would kill myself too, if you were my sister." At that, the courtroom gasped and Greig started to shake.
 
Greig's attorney initially sought a more lenient sentence of 27 months, pointing to Greig's lack of a criminal record.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Adam Reilly reports from the courthouse on Greater Boston:

Gang Boss Howie Winter Arrested for Extortion

By The Associated Press   |   Friday, June 8, 2012
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June 7, 2012

Howie Winter
Howie Winter, undated mug shot. (Wikipedia)


BOSTON — Massachusetts prosecutors have announced the arrest of 83-year-old former Boston-area gang boss Howie Winter, a predecessor of James "Whitey" Bulger as head of the Winter Hill Gang in the 1960s and '70s, on attempted extortion and conspiracy charges.

The Middlesex District Attorney's office said Winter, of Milbury, and 70-year-old James Melvin of Braintree were arrested the night of June 7. They are accused of attempting to extort $35,000 from each of two individuals who had arranged a $100,000 business loan for a third man last fall.

Prosecutors said the alleged victims began getting threatening phone calls after the borrower stopped making payments in January. 

Winter and Melvin are charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy and are to be arraigned on June 8 in Somerville District Court. It was not immediately determined if they have attorneys.

> > More about the charges from our partners at Wicked Local

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

Appeals Court Rejects Key Provisions of DOMA

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Thursday, May 31, 2012
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DOMA plaintiffs
Gay & Lesbian Defenders & Allies at the DOMA arguments. (Mainframe Photographics Inc. & Infinity Portrait Design 2012 for GLAD)

May 31, 2012


STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — In a landmark decision, on May 31 a Boston federal appeals court declared the heart of the Defense of Marriage Act, called DOMA, unconstitutional. The 1996 law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
 
The three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeals in Boston ruled unanimously that the law unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples. 

The panel included two Republican appointees. It is the first time a federal appeals court has struck down parts of DOMA.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office filed the suit, hailed the decision, saying DOMA damaged Massachusetts families everyday.

“We’re aware of veterans who would not be able to be buried in a veterans cemetery with their loved one, their married partner. They are married under Massachusetts law. But for purposes of federal law they would not be considered married and not be able to be buried together," she said, citing also couples who have not had access to health care, Social Security and other survivor benefits.

Mary Bonauto, the lead attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the ruling affirmed the constitutional rights of the 17 plaintiffs. "Having worked with these seventeen people for these many years now, and knowing these many burdens DOMA imposes on them, I am thrilled," she said. "And I’m thrilled in part because the court couldn’t be clearer that a big part of its ruling is that these plaintiffs have the right to secure equal protection of the law on the same terms as others. That is the promise of America, and that is the foundation of this decision."
 
The court did not rule on a more politically explosive provision of DOMA, which says that states without same-sex marriage do not have to recognize same-sex unions performed in states such as Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. Nevertheless, Coakley called the ruling a big deal, saying, "This is a great day for Massachusetts for civil rights and for all same-sex couples in Massachusetts who are married or who will be.”

But Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute said liberal states such as Massachusetts are trying to define marriage for the nation: "This court has the audacity to hold the federal government hostage and demand the government recognize Massachusetts’ radical social experiment and bestow its benefits upon it."

The ruling is now expected to wind up before the Supreme Court. Mineau said he was confident the court will see the "eternal logic" of defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

> > READ: Legal documents from the case
 

The Problem of Our Aging Prison Population

By Abbie Ruzicka   |   Friday, May 25, 2012
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May 25, 2012
 
BOSTON — As the number of prisoners growing old behind bars increases at an alarming rate, correctional facilities across the country are scrambling to come up with the resources for the care of elderly prisoners. Older prisoners often require special care, which drives up the cost of incarceration.
 
The national population of prisoners age 65 or older has grown by 63 percent, while the general prison population has grown by just 1 percent, said Jamie Fellner, the author of the Human Rights Watch report Old Behind Bars.
 
This could be a reflection of the longer sentences prisoners are serving, decreased opportunity for parole, more people entering the prison system at older ages and the fact that people in general are living longer, Fellner said.
 
“There’s this kind of knee-jerk response — 'We don’t want to let people out of prisons.' We need to shift the conversation to how do we keep the public safe and ensure accountability but not senselessly and needlessly keep all these [prisoners], who can’t go anywhere or do anything, behind bars at great cost to the public,” she said.
 
Though elderly prisoners represent only 6 percent of the 24,000 people in the correctional system in Massachusetts, the cost of their care is much higher than the general prison population, criminal justice reporter Beth Schwartzapfel said.
 
Aging inmates often require special medical treatment, which drives up the cost of incarceration. For prisoners age 80 or older, the cost of their medical care averages around $40,000 per year, according to national estimates.
 
For Massachusetts inmates who need help with day-to-day care, there is currently a total of 29 beds available at two separate Massachusetts Activities of Daily Living Units in Massachusetts, Schwartzapfel said. The state will need about 900 additional beds by 2020.

> > READ: Beth Schwartzapfel's article from Boston Magazine
 
 

About the Authors
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.
Bob Seay Bob Seay
Bob Seay is the host of NPR's Morning Edition on 89.7FM WGBH Radio. He got his start in radio during college at WMUH, got involved with WGBH TV while in graduate school at Boston University and formerly hosted ME at WRNI in Rhode Island.

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