Martha Coakley on Crime



Supports seeking federal death penalty for Marathon Bomber

Massachusetts Democrats, who also personally oppose the death penalty, straggled into line behind Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to seek the death penalty against the so-called Marathon bomber because of the targeting of an iconic event; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Martha Coakley, who is running for governor and is also supposedly against the death penalty, said she is sure "that after very thoughtful consideration, Attorney General Holder has made this decision based upon the facts of this case and applicable federal law." Candidates Juliette Kayyem &Don Berwick similarly hedged.

There's a Democrat in the White House, and Massachusetts Democrats don't want to cross him or his AG. There's also the posturing aspect of Holder's decision: seeking the death penalty increases the government's leverage to get a guilty verdict in return for life without parole. And to Massachusetts politicians, "Boston Strong" has come to mean looking tough to the nation on terrorism, not "squishy on crime."

Source: Boston Globe OpEd on 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial race , Jan 31, 2014

Lobbied hard to keep Gerald Amirault in prison

Gerald Amirault was convicted of preposterous child sexual abuse charges in the 1980's in the notorious Fells Acre Case. In 2001, the MA Parole Board stated, "It is clearly a matter of public knowledge that, at the minimum, real and substantial doubt exists concerning petitioner's conviction."

But Coakley lobbied hard and persistently to keep Amirault in prison to avoid embarrassing the Middlesex DA's office that had originally prosecuted him. He was finally paroled during the Romney administration

Source: Fathers & Families email on 2010 MA Senate debate , Jan 14, 2010

Opposes death penalty, but federal death penalty ok

Brown supports the death penalty. Coakley opposes it. He pressed her to say whether, if found guilty, the alleged 9/11 masterminds should get the death penalty. She said yes, because that's the sentence under federal law.
Source: WBUR article on 2010 MA Senate debate , Jan 12, 2010

Limit Supreme Court review of state death penalty conviction

Coakley, who says she is firmly against capital punishment, has drawn the ire of some death penalty opponents by urging the US Supreme Court, in a case involving a mentally disabled convicted murderer, to limit federal review of state court decisions. Opponents say a decision in Coakley's favor could mean the murderer is put to death and could hinder the ability of death-row defendants to challenge their sentences.

Coakley, who signed a friend-of-the-court brief in September with 18 other attorneys general, said she got involved out of concern that federal courts might win more discretion to review state cases, which she said would severely burden Massachusetts and other states.

Coakley's opponent, Mike Capuano, noted: "If this case wins, this ma will be put to death. That's finality. And everybody I know that's opposed to the death penalty is on the other side in this case."

A spokeswoman for Coakley said yesterday that she "is firmly against the death penalty in any and all cases."

Source: Matt Viser in Boston Globe, "Death Penalty Brief" , Nov 7, 2009

Signed death penalty brief with 15 death penalty states

[Mike Capuano criticized Martha Coakley's signing onto a death penalty brief with 18 other attorneys general.] The case in which Coakley joined the brief involves a convicted murderer from Alabama who has appealed his case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that his state-assigned lawyer failed to introduce evidence that he is mentally retarded.

Many of the attorneys general who signed the brief were from more conservative states in the South and Midwest. Just three who signed it are from states that do not allow the death penalty: IA, MA, and NM. "It would be one thing if she was standing with all the attorneys general in the country or the progressive ones in New England," Capuano said. "She's standing with AL, TX, and GA. I don't get it."

A Coakley spokeswoman explained, "The attorney general's office signed on to the brief because of the far-reaching implications for Massachusetts, including the possibility that it could result in dangerous convicted criminals being released from prison,

Source: Matt Viser in Boston Globe, "Death Penalty Brief" , Nov 7, 2009

Supported death penalty for cop killers, but now opposes it

In September, Capuano sought to highlight Coakley's evolution on the issue. Coakley previously favored the death penalty in two instances, including for those convicted of killing police officers, but about seven or eight years ago shifted her position because of concerns about wrongful convictions.

A spokeswoman for Coakley said yesterday that she "is firmly against the death penalty in any and all cases. That is her position, and that will be her position as senator."

Source: Matt Viser in Boston Globe, "Death Penalty Brief" , Nov 7, 2009

Criminal defense lawyer before switching to prosecution

Attorney General Coakley began her legal career in 1979, practicing civil litigation with the firm of Parker, Coulter, Daley & White and later at Goodwin Proctor LLP, both in Boston. While in civil practice, Coakley gained extensive experience in such areas as insurance defense, criminal defense, and large-scale construction litigation. She joined the Middlesex District Attorney's Office in 1986, as an Assistant District Attorney in the Lowell District Court office. In 1987, Coakley was invited by the U.S. Justice Department to join its Boston Organized Crime Strike Force as a Special Attorney. She returned to the District Attorney's Office in 1989, and in 1991 was appointed the Chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit, during which time she investigated and prosecuted hundreds of cases of both physical and sexual abuse of children, including Commonwealth v. Louise Woodward.
Source: 2010 Senate campaign website, marthacoakley.com, "About" , Sep 3, 2009

As Middlesex DA, passionate advocate for public safety

In 1998, Coakley was elected Middlesex District Attorney. During her 8 years as District Attorney, Coakley established herself as a passionate advocate for public safety, not only bringing justice to crime victims and their families, but also emphasizing the importance of working with community leaders, schools, and law enforcement in a variety of diverse and multi-faceted prevention efforts.
Source: 2010 Senate campaign website, marthacoakley.com, "About" , Sep 3, 2009

Enhance victim compensation assistance

Attorney General Martha Coakley, along with a coalition of over 20 legislators from around the state, has filed legislation to update victim compensation laws by broadening assistance options available to victims of violent crimes. The bill, An Act Relative to Victims of Violent Crimes, has been filed in both the Senate (S. 1598) and in the House (H. 1587).

"With the 25th anniversary of the Massachusetts Victim Bill of Rights, it is imperative that we continue to build upon the progress that has been made in this area. In drafting this legislation, we were careful to balance the diverse needs of victims who come to our office for help with the fiscal realities faced by Commonwealth," said Coakley. "The amendments proposed in this legislation are important and necessary updates that will enable our office to continue to adequately respond to the needs of victims of violent crimes and their families without requiring additional funding from the General Court."

Source: Press release on Attorney General website, www.mass.gov , Apr 16, 2009

Other governors on Crime: Martha Coakley on other issues:
MA Gubernatorial:
Bill Weld
Bob Massie
Charlie Baker
Dan Wolf
Deval Patrick
Don Berwick
Jay Gonzalez
Karyn Polito
Lawrence Lessig
Marty Walsh
Richard Tisei
Steve Grossman
Tom Menino
Warren Tolman
MA Senatorial:
Brian Herr
Bruce Skarin
Ed Markey
Elizabeth Warren
Gabriel Gomez
John Kerry
Mo Cowan

Gubernatorial Debates 2017:
NJ: Guadagno(R) vs.Phil Murphy(D, won 2017 primary) vs.Ray Lesniak(D, lost 2017 primary) vs.Mayor Steve Fulop(declined Dem. primary, Sept. 2016) vs.Lesniak(D) vs.Wisniewski(D) vs.Ciattarelli(R) vs.Rullo(R)
VA: Gillespie(R) vs.Perriello(D) vs.Wittman(R) vs.Wagner(R) vs.Northam(D)
Gubernatorial Debates 2018:
AK: Walker(i) vs.(no opponent yet)
AL: Kay Ivey(R) vs.Countryman(D) vs.David Carrington (R) vs.Tommy Battle (R)
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Newly-elected governors (first seated in Jan. 2017):
DE-D: Carney
IN-R: Holcomb
MO-R: Greitens
NH-R: Sununu
NC-D: Cooper
ND-R: Burgum
VT-R: Scott
WV-D: Justice

Retiring 2017-18:
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(term-limited 2018)
CA-D: Jerry Brown
(term-limited 2018)
CO-D: John Hickenlooper
(term-limited 2018)
FL-R: Rick Scott
(term-limited 2018)
GA-R: Nathan Deal
(term-limited 2018)
IA-R: Terry Branstad
(appointed ambassador, 2017)
ID-R: Butch Otter
(retiring 2018)
KS-R: Sam Brownback
(term-limited 2018)
ME-R: Paul LePage
(term-limited 2018)
MI-R: Rick Snyder
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MN-D: Mark Dayton
(retiring 2018)
NM-R: Susana Martinez
(term-limited 2018)
OH-R: John Kasich
(term-limited 2018)
OK-R: Mary Fallin
(term-limited 2018)
SC-R: Nikki Haley
(appointed ambassador, 2017)
SD-R: Dennis Daugaard
(term-limited 2018)
TN-R: Bill Haslam
(term-limited 2018)
WY-R: Matt Mead
(term-limited 2018)
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Page last updated: Jul 20, 2017