BOSTON (WWLP) – A lawsuit against the Hampden District Attorney’s office will be heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC).
In a news release sent to 22News from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts, the lawsuit will attempt to address issues of transparency regarding exculpatory evidence in criminal cases prosecuted by the Hampden DA’s office and Springfield Police Department (SPD). Exculpatory evidence is evidence that could be favorable to a defendant in a criminal trial.
They are demanding that the state investigate the SPD and DA’s office on behalf of public defenders, bar advocates, defense lawyers, and criminal defendants whose cases have been negatively impacted by the misconduct outlined in a 2020 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report.
In April 2021, the ACLU of Massachusetts, along with the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) and law firm Goulston & Storrs, filed a lawsuit asking the Supreme Judicial Court to hold that the state must investigate allegations of systemic Springfield police violence, false reporting, and misconduct, and to ensure that the Hampden County DA properly discloses that misconduct as exculpatory evidence in criminal cases.
The lawsuit was initiated after the report by the DOJ found many instances of misconduct at the SPD including excessive force, theft and accountability issues.
According to the ACLU no state entity has investigated the SPD even after the DOJ report findings, and despite rulings from courts supporting investigations of misconduct by government employees involved in criminal cases as members of prosecution teams.
The organization also alleges that by October 2020, the SPD had compiled hundreds of pages of documents as well as an “internal memo” concerning the DOJ report. The documents were not disclosed to criminal defendants until the summer of 2021, after the lawsuit was filed, and the “internal memo” remains secret.
Learn more about the ACLU lawsuit: Graham v. District Attorney for Hampden County.
Last year, the Springfield Police Department signed onto a consent decree with the DOJ, agreeing to improve both it’s internal policies, training regimen on officers using force and reporting procedures.