Sheriff Cahillane cites concerns of moving Hampshire County trials to Greenfield

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NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Hampshire Sheriff Patrick J. Cahillane is asking the Executive Office of the Trial Court to reconsider their decision to move Hampshire County trials to the former Greenfield Courthouse.

In a letter to the Trial Court, which was shared with news outlets, the sheriff cited that there are currently no cases of Covid-19 inside the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction.

He expressed his concerns about the hardship the move will cause to everyone involved in the judicial process in Hampshire County.

 If this decision is allowed to stand, witnesses, defendants, and jurors living in Hampshire County will be required to travel up to 40 miles one way to the newly designated site in Greenfield. This places an unnecessary burden on our county residents, especially considering the public facilities that have already established appropriate space to hold trials in Hampshire County. A witness, defendant, or potential juror who lives in one of the furthermost communities in Hampshire County – Ware, Southampton, or Huntington, for example – who does not have the necessary transportation to travel to Greenfield for a few days or a week, how are they supposed to meet their obligations to the Court? Unfortunately, the Trial Court’s decision is silent on this matter.

Sheriff Patrick J. Cahillane

Sheriff Cahillane also questioned why Hampshire County is being forced to move such a distance when other courts are not being impacted this way.

Berkshire County is being set up at the Holiday Inn in Pittsfield, available for trials beginning April 5. Hampden County is moving to former Eastfield Mall Cinemas in Springfield and is expected to be ready on April 12.

Here is Sheriff Cahillane’s letter in its entirety:

To The Editor: 

During the past year, my office has worked diligently with the courts, defense bar, and district attorneys to do our part to help keep the community safe from Covid-19.

These efforts included setting up virtual court hearings, providing video, telephone, and non-contact access for attorneys and defendants, and assisting all relevant agencies in the de-carceration process.

Now, administrators with the Executive Office of the Trial Court in Boston have decided to move trials for Hampshire County courts out of Hampshire County to Greenfield in Franklin County. If this decision is allowed to stand, witnesses, defendants, and jurors living in Hampshire County will be required to travel up to 40 miles one way to the newly designated site in Greenfield.

This places an unnecessary burden on our county residents, especially considering the public facilities that have already established appropriate space to hold trials in Hampshire County. A witness, defendant, or potential juror who lives in one of the furthermost communities in Hampshire County – Ware, Southampton, or Huntington, for example – who does not have the necessary transportation to travel to Greenfield for a few days or a week, how are they supposed to meet their obligations to the Court?

Unfortunately, the Trial Court’s decision is silent on this matter. The Trial Court’s decision is also silent on the impact this decision will have on the well-being of the men in my care and custody, as well as the impact the additional transportation and security costs will have on my staff and operating budget.   

I was not consulted until the decision was already made, so I cannot speak to the court’s motivations. But I am speaking to the effect it will have on the people in Hampshire County we represent, people who appear to have been singled out by the Court because no other county is affected in this way. 

Please find attached a copy of the letter informing me of the Court’s decision to move Hampshire County trials to Franklin County. My intent is to work with our Hampshire County legislative delegation to make sure Hampshire County residents are treated fairly as we resume the important work of conducting trials in Massachusetts. Sincerely, Patrick J. Cahillane Sheriff, Hampshire County.

Sheriff Cahillane, Hampshire County Sheriff

Here are additional documents sent along with the letter:

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