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Lawyers' seminar: How to free sex deviants

by David Weber
Tuesday, June 3, 2003

The state's public defenders' office is using taxpayer dollars to build a road map for lawyers to beat the system for their clients convicted of sexual crimes.


The office organized a seminar that referred to prosecutors as ``bastards'' and promised, among other things, to teach defense attorneys to identify jurors ``positively disposed toward convicted rapists and child molesters.''

``It's shocking. I think it's completely unacceptable,'' said Criminal Justice Committee House Chairman James Vallee (D-Franklin). ``I'm shocked they would ever run a program for learning how to win at all costs with the intention of putting sexually dangerous people back on the street.''

The seminar, originally titled, ``Winning Despite the Bastards: Sexually Dangerous Persons Litigation and You,'' was scheduled to have been held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at the downtown office of the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

CPCS chief counsel William Leahy said the title and objectionable language in the program outline were changed about two weeks ago. He said the program was canceled because of lack of interest, and he hoped to reschedule it for the fall.

The seminar was meant to train defense lawyers on how to deal with a controversial recent law that allows district attorneys to seek indefinite incarceration for sexually dangerous persons even after they've done their time.

The agenda contained sub-headings such as:


``Wrapping your client in the flag, the Constitution, the Bible, truth, justice and the American way.''

``Forcing the commonwealth's experts to draw bulls-eyes on their butts for later use at trial.''

``Objections: Making sure the judge and jury hate the prosecutor rather than you.''

``Humanizing the scary man next to you.''
``Were the district attorneys surprised to see a training session presented for and by attorneys that portrayed them as bastards? Certainly,'' said Geline Williams, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. ``The district attorneys think both prosecutors and public defenders are hard-working, dedicated, taxpayer-funded public servants. There is no place for anything but the highest level of professionalism.''

Leahy said he was unaware of the seminar content on the Website until another criminal defense lawyer contacted him.

``He said some of the language was problematic. It was problematic. It has been changed. It should not have been done. It was the work of a single person who got a little overzealous in trying to drum up interest in the seminar, and it was unintentionally offensive,'' Leahy said.

He said it has been difficult at times to find competent lawyers who are willing to defend men at the sexually dangerous persons hearings, which began three years ago after the law had been passed and then modified several times.

David Traub, spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney William Keating, said, ``Balancing an individual's freedom and the safety of the public is a serious thing. It really shouldn't be sensationalized and trivialized. The (agenda) subtitles seemed to reduce it to warped gamesmanship, and that really serves no one's purpose.''

Ira Silverman, a forensic psychologist from Barnstable who has testified for the prosecution in a number of sexually dangerous person hearings, said he was ``outraged.''

``I don't like being referred to as a bastard,'' he said. ``It's unprofessional and unethical.''
 
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