DA: Charging the max not a given
Rollins says prosecutors will go after what they can prove
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.”
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.