January 26, 2010
Contact: Alan Karmin, <>
Massachusetts Voters Reject Nifong-Style Prosecutor
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 26, 2010 – Even before Democratic Senate Candidate Martha Coakley was defeated by the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, political commentators were offering explanations for her loss of popularity, ranging from a bungled campaign to the idea that the Massachusetts election was a national referendum on health care reform or the Obama agenda. One explanation that deserves more attention was recently put forward by Carey Roberts at ifeminist.net. In "Prosecution of Innocent Man Seals Martha Coakley's Defeat" (http://www.ifeminists.net/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.665), Roberts argues that Coakley's role in keeping Gerald Amirault in prison played a major role in the election of Scott Brown.
In the early 1980s, as explained in a story by Dorothy Rabinowitz that ran in the Wall Street Journal five days before the election (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704281204575003341640657862.html), Gerald Amirault had been accused of plunging "a wide-blade butcher knife into the rectum of a 4-year-old boy, which he then had trouble removing. When a teacher in the school saw him in action with the knife, she asked him what he was doing, and then told him not to do it again, a child said. On this testimony, Gerald was convicted of a rape which had, miraculously, left no mark or other injury." In 2001, when the Massachusetts Board of Pardons voted 5-0 to release him, Coakley, then District Attorney Coakley, successfully pushed for the Governor to deny commutation, which she did in 2002. Amirault spent two more years in prison before finally being paroled.
According to RADAR spokesman David Heleniak, an exciting aspect of the public's negative reaction to Coakley's handling of the Amirault case is that it seems to represent a coming together of the right and left on the issue of civil liberties.
On December 9, 2009, conservative commentator Ann Coulter wrote an article condemning Coakleys' decision to allow "her ambition to trump basic human decency as she campaigned to keep a patently innocent man in prison" (http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=34772).
On January 11, 2009, self-described "traditional liberal" Mark Rosenthal wrote at DissidentVoice.org: "By 2001, no person with two brain cells to rub together believed that the prosecution ... was anything other than a travesty of justice. But Coakley, placing more value on defending the infallibility of her office and on appearing tough on crime than on seeing that injustice be rectified, embarked on a public-relations crusade to keep Gerald Amirault behind bars" (http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/01/martha-coakleys-chappaquiddick/).
On January 14, 2009, Jack Fowler at the right-wing National Review Online blogged: "Part of the reason Gerald Amirault served so long: Middlesex DA Martha Coakley, who, in the face of clear evidence, knowing that the accusations were sheer fabrication, worked diligently to prevent the commutation of Amirault's sentence and to prolong his time behind bars. Today, appearing on WEEI's 'Dennis & Callahan' radio show, Amirault spoke for 25 minutes about what happened to him, and just what Coakley did to compound his injustice. It's a heartbreaking, stunning, and maddening interview" (http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MGQ4NzhmMmE1ZDJjYmYyYTNiM2E5MWI4NDRiNDUxOGQ=).
On January 19, 2009, the day before the election, Casey Sherman at the left-leaning Huffington Post commented: "Coakley has always been a go-along to get-along kinda gal. During her years as a prosecutor she kept Gerald Amirault behind bars for an extra three years ... despite overwhelming evidence that he was innocent of the alleged crimes. She could not afford to look soft on crime." In other words, "The continued loss of Amirault's freedom was merely collateral damage in crafting Coakley's political future" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/casey-sherman/martha-coakley-democrat-d_b_427016.html).
"On both sides of the political spectrum," says Heleniak, "there's outrage at the treatment Amirault received. And there's an increasing awareness, after Nifong, that prosecutors are not necessarily the impartial champions of justice they claim to be."
R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://mediaradar.org.
- 30 -