DA: Charg­ing the max not a given

Rollins says pros­e­cu­tors will go after what they can prove

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By TAY­LOR PETTAWAY and BROOKS SUTHER­LAND

Suf­folk Dis­trict At­tor­ney Rachael Rollins said Sun­day that in her new po­si­tion she will align mur­der charges with what in­ves­ti­ga­tors can prove in court, and avoid a “re­flex” to file first-de­gree mur­der charges on ev­ery case.

“I be­lieve that what we need to do is look at ev­ery­thing as not a re­flex, first­de­gree, first-de­gree, first­de­gree — there are some cir­cum­stances where a sec­ond-de­gree charge would be more ap­pro­pri­ate,” she told WCVB dur­ing it’s Sun­day morn­ing “On the Record” news show.

Her com­ments mir­ror sim­i­lar state­ments made by Philadel­phia DA Larry Kras­ner, an­other prose­cu­tor gain­ing na­tional at­ten­tion for his re­form-minded ap­proach to crim­i­nal jus­tice.

“First and fore­most it is about what we can prove,” Rollins said.

“When we start find­ing out what the facts are of a case, No. 1 I want to make sure I am keep­ing the vic­tims’ fam­ily in mind, but it all comes down to what is the ev­i­dence and what can we prove,” she said.

Bos­ton po­lice Com­mis­sion Wil­liam Gross said the depart­ment is ready to “trust” Rollins and work with her.

“What folks don’t know, in­ves­ti­ga­tions are for­ever chang­ing,” said Gross. “From the time of the ar­rest un­til court, so you may say ‘OK, this is first-de­gree,’ but by the time you get to court, the facts, cir­cum­stances and ev­i­dence may lead you to change the ac­tual charge. So, we’re go­ing to trust the DA. She’s the DA. She has a right to ex­er­cise her dis­cre­tion. I’m look­ing for­ward to work­ing with her.”

Rollins said her of­fice is pre­pared to file charges ac­cord­ing to what pros­e­cu­tors could prove in court and she in­tends to keep vic­tims and fam­i­lies in­formed along the way.

“Of course when a loved one is taken you want to be­lieve that what you as­sume is the high­est charge pos­si­ble is what we are go­ing to charge,” she added. “But of­ten­times if we say ‘this is what we can prove, this is what is go­ing to go for­ward with and we want to ex­plain this to you and an­swer ques­tions’ you would be sur­prised what fam­i­lies have to say when they are part of the process.”

Rollins said one way to do bet­ter with homi­cide cases is to put more fo­cus to the sur­vivors, by lis­ten­ing to their rec­om­men­da­tions and mak­ing sure they un­der­stand and are in­volved in the process.

“All I am say­ing is we are go­ing to ask and we are go­ing to lis­ten and ul­ti­mately we have the fi­nal say as to what is go­ing to oc­cur,” Rollins said. “We don’t ask enough of vic­tims and sur­vivors of what they be­lieve jus­tice is.”

JIM MICHAUD / BOS­TON HER­ALD

SOME­THING TO SAY: Suf­folk Dis­trict At­tor­ney Rachael Rollins speaks dur­ing the an­nual Martin Luther King Jr. con­vo­ca­tion Sun­day at the Twelfth Bap­tist Church in Roxbury. Sep­a­rately on Sun­day, she said she’d ad­vise her pros­e­cu­tors to not go for first-de­gree mur­der charges if they can’t prove it.

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