On Tuesday January 19, Massachusetts voters will go to the polls to decide whether the late Edward Kennedy's Senate seat should go to Martha Coakley, the state's Attorney General, or Scott Brown, apparently some guy the Republicans found lying in the street who didn't have anything better to do.
Under ordinary circumstances, Coakley would be a shoe-in as a Democrat, but she appears to be running about even with Brown. Especially given the stakes this race presents, on which the President's health care reform bill may ride. History is in the making.
But it's past history that should concern us. I'm writing to urge any Massachusetts readers we may have to suck it up and to vote for the bum the Republicans found lying in the street. Martha Coakley is less suited for high office than anyone on the national stage. Less suited than Sarah Palin. Less suited than Carrie Prejean.
Prosecutors are called to do a tough job, but the exercise of discretion is part of that job. Based on the evidence, Martha Coakley, in almost twenty years as a prosecutor, has exercised her discretion in every instance in favor of the State, in favor of her own ruthless ambition, and in defiance of any sense of compassion, or common sense.
Consider the notorious case of Gerald Amirault, convicted, in defiance of all reason and logic of inserting a wide-bladed butcher's knife, and a "magic wand," into the rectum of a four-year-old boy in the Fells Acres case. (Miraculously the boy showed no physical injuries.) It's true that Coakley did not prosecute Amirault. Her former boss, Scott Harshbarger, did that in the wave of "satanic ritual abuse" cases that swept America into a frenzy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. You may recall that dozens of children all over the country made fantastic allegations (often as a "recovered memory") of abuse at day cares, leading to now-discredited verdicts such as Amirault, Little Rascals, and the McMartin pre-school case.
No Coakley didn't prosecute Amirault. She merely, when elected to succeed Harshbarger, did everything in her power to sabotage Amirault's pardon or parole, when the state's pardon commission concluded, unanimously, that Amirault wasn't guilty and should be set free. Though Coakley tries to avoid discussion of Amirault, now almost universally considered a travesty, Dorothy Rabinowitz shows that she continues to stand by her work in the case, and to maintain Amirault's guilt.
That's only one exercise of Coakley's discretion. Consider Coakley's role in prosecuting nanny Louise Woodward, where Coakley pushed for and got a murder conviction in an infamous "shaken baby" case. Despite Coakley's resistance, the judge presiding over the case reduced Woodward's conviction to involuntary manslaughter. The Woodward case, like Amirault's, is now discredited. Most believe the death was the result of a latent pre-existing injury. Martha Coakley exercises her discretion in favor of over-criminalization and over-prosecution, turning the tragic into the capital. And she showcases these trials on her resume, riding them to higher office.
Except when she doesn't. When the perpetrator is a police officer, as in the case of Keith Winfield, who was convicted of raping a twenty-three month old baby with a hot curling iron, and given two life sentences. Although this case would seem tailor-made for a guardian of children like Martha Coakley, she didn't press for prosecution (that was done by the child's mother), and didn't ask that the defendant even post a bond. The Winfield case, unlike others involving allegations of child abuse and Martha Coakley, is not a cause celebre, and no one seriously disputes Winfield's guilt. Strange that Coakley doesn't trumpet this one.
But in every other high profile case where there's something in it for Coakley, she has blown her trumpet. Consider the Melendez-Diaz case, where Coakley, not an appellate advocate, chose to appear personally before the United States Supreme Court, to argue that bothering prosecutors to produce hostile witnesses (in this case forensic examiners) in compliance with the Sixth Amendment, is just too burdensome. As Radley Balko points out, even Justices Scalia and Thomas didn't buy what Coakley was selling.
If one is a liberal, it's tempting to think that this election is just about health care, the burning issue of the day. What damage can one Senator do? Of course, one might ask the same of a prosecutor, and consider Coakley's career. But a prosecutor doesn't make law. A prosecutor merely enforces laws written by others.
Freedom in this country is under constant assault, from forces right and left. Massachusetts voters, liberal, conservative, or none-of-the-above, should consider whether Martha Coakley is suited, by temperament and experience, to inflict her views on the rest of the country. To take her ego, and her views, onto the national stage.
I say no. Vote for the bum the Republicans found on the street. It's important.
January 18, 2010 Update: Scott Greenfield has more on Coakley's effort, thirteen years after his conviction, to deprive Gerald Amirault of the counsel of his choice, using the freedom of Amirault's sister as a wedge. I'm not a Massachusetts lawyer and can't comment on the legality of Coakley's deal (which the Amirault's lawyer, James Sultan, rejected out of hand), but I can comment, morally, on Coakley and her demands: