ACLU, lawyers call for SJC to probe Springfield police misconduct, Hampden DA complicity

Published: 4/6/2021 7:10:46 PM

BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts, along with the Committee for Public Counsel Services, have filed suit with the Supreme Judicial Court seeking an investigation into Springfield police violence and misconduct, as well as the Hampden County district attorney’s office’s failures to investigate and disclose that misconduct.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of people and groups affected by these failures: two individuals who have been prosecuted in Hampden County, two criminal defense lawyers who practice in Hampden County, public defenders and the bar advocate organization Hampden County Lawyers for Justice.

Criminal indictments, community complaints, news media reports, and lawsuits reveal widespread misconduct in the Springfield Police Department. In the Trump administration’s only investigation against a police department, the U.S. Department of Justice released a July 2020 report detailing six years of egregious, excessive force and false reporting by the Springfield Police Department. The report shows that no entity fulfilled its obligation to properly investigate officers accused of misconduct, or to inform defendants about misconduct by officers who could testify against them.

“District attorneys have the constitutional and ethical responsibility to investigate police misconduct and disclose that evidence to defendants and their attorneys,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement Tuesday. “Bay Staters deserve a full investigation to determine the extent of misconduct by Springfield police officers.”

In response to the Massachusetts drug lab scandals, courts have made clear that the commonwealth has a duty to investigate and disclose, on a case-by-case basis, egregious misconduct by government employees who participate as members of prosecution teams, according to the ACLU. According to the lawsuit filed with the SJC, no investigation has been conducted to determine the full scope and impact of misconduct by Springfield officers who are central figures in prosecution teams.

The ACLU is asking the Massachusetts SJC to order an investigation into the Springfield Police Department and provide interim solutions to mitigate any ongoing due process violations in the lower courts. The ACLU is also calling for an investigation into the district attorney’s office’s practices, which have called into question the integrity of the entire Springfield criminal justice system.

“Our criminal justice system relies on the integrity of police and prosecutors to uphold the constitutional rights of individuals,” said Marty Fantozzi, co-managing director of law firm Goulston & Storrs, a party to the lawsuit. “The findings in the DOJ report raise disturbing questions regarding a pattern of behavior within the Springfield Police Department that warrant a comprehensive investigation.”

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