Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

H.B. 751 - Pay Increase for Court Appointed Counsel 

Act Now

The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering House Bill 751 increasing the rate of pay for their bar advocates.  To keep this bill from dying in committee, we are urging MACDL members to act now. Click here for details.

Criminal Justice Reforms -- trees, not forest

In a letter to the editor, MACDL President Derege Demissie and Legislative Policy Chair Marty Rosenthal highlighted the failures of the Massachusetts Senate'criminal justice bill:

To The Editor:

"The Senate’s criminal justice bill takes excellent steps towards USA’s recent Smart-on-Crime paradigm shift.  But its important “trees” reforms fail three “forest” challenges: mass incarceration, broad racial injustice, and broader diversion from wasteful/harmful court usage. . . ." click here for the full text.

MACDL Joins With CPCS And Others To

Oppose SORB Changes

The Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers joined with the Committee for Public Counsel Services in opposing several proposed amendments to laws regarding persons convicted of so-called sex crimes.  For the complete text, click here.

MACDL Opposes Proposed Wiretap Law

A Call for Defending Citizens’ Rights to Privacy

The Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers call upon the Massachusetts legislature to strike down House Bill No. 3671, "An Act Modernizing the Massachusetts Wiretap Law."  In an age of emerging technology in which the vast majority of police departments, including the Massachusetts state police, continue to refuse to implement body cameras or cruiser cameras to increase the transparency between law enforcement and the citizenry it protects, this bill vastly expands law enforcement’s power to invade the privacy of the same citizenry with impunity.  This should not stand. 

Click here for the full text of MACDL's letter to the chairman and chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee.

The Amherst Lab Scandal

(7/25/17) MACDL President Derege B. Demissie today called upon Attorney General Maura Healy to "stop defending the indefensible prosecutorial misconduct that continues to impede the resolution of the Amherst drug lab scandal."

Last week, attorneys for the Innocence Project submitted complaints to the Office of Bar Counsel seeking disciplinary action against former Assistant Attorneys General Kris Foster and Anne Kaczmarek. 

The action follows Judge Richard Carey’s finding, in a recent 127-page decision, that Foster and Kaczmarek “tampered with the fair administration of justice by . . . engaging in a pattern calculated to interfere with the court’s ability impartially to adjudicate discovery in the [Amherst] drug lab cases.”  According to Judge Carey, “Kaczmarek and Foster deliberately used deceptive tactics” to shield from disclosure materials shedding considerable light on the timing and scope of Sonja Farak’s criminal activity.

Last December, present and former supervisors in the Attorney General’s Office testified they were “shocked,” “upset,” and “angry” when they learned about the suppression of this highly exculpatory evidence.  Yet, earlier this month, a spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healy issued a statement claiming there is “no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct by attorneys in the Attorney General’s Office.”

According to Demissie "We cannot afford to repeat missteps made in response the Hinton Lab scandal. The Commonwealth spent millions of dollars in that case because the Attorney General stiffly resisted acknowledging the breadth of the misconduct and attempting to provide a case-by-case resolution. We now have a framework on how to deal with such a systemic failure. It starts with a quick admission of the obvious miscarriage of justice caused by egregious governmental misconduct.

"The time has come for law enforcement officials to stop defending the indefensible.  Holding former prosecutors accountable for perpetrating a “fraud upon the court” is the necessary first step in restoring the public trust. 

"The Attorney General’s Office has demonstrated leadership in seeking many desperately needed criminal justice reforms. MACDL calls upon the Attorney General to forgo its misplaced defense of Foster and Kaczmarek and devote its resources to identifying the victims of this scandal and dismissing their tainted drug convictions."


Letter From the President

For the latest update on MACDL activities and achievements, click here for the June 2017 Letter From The President.

In Defense of a Reasonable Decision by a Fair Judge

The following is the text of the letter sent by Mike Hussey, MACDL President, to the editor of Massachusetts Lawyer's Weekly:

The Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is dedicated not only to protecting individual rights but also to supporting an independent judiciary.  Today we stand in defense of the judicial independence and integrity of Judge Thomas Estes who has been unfairly criticized for sentencing a defendant in a recent sexual assault case in Western Massachusetts. 

Practically all of the criticism directed at Judge Estes shares one important feature:  it has been lodged by people, including elected officials, who were not present in the courtroom and have not taken the time to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sentence.  While not hesitating to criticize Judge Estes's decision, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, for example, readily admitted that "she had yet to review all of the specifics of the case." 

Governor Baker, on the other hand, offered some useful advice for understanding what happened in this case, among others, when he said, "I have a friend who's a lawyer and told me one time that unless you sit in a courtroom through a trial and hear all the evidence, you should be careful about drawing a lot of conclusions from it."  Fortunately, a thirty-two minute recording of David Becker's sentencing hearing is available on-line.  See  A review of that recording reveals the following undisputed facts. 

On April 15, 2016, Becker was arrested and charged with rape and indecent assault and battery.  Four months later when he appeared in court, the Commonwealth filed a motion dismissing so much of the complaint as alleged rape.

But for this act of prosecutorial discretion, the case could not have been resolved in District Court.  Prosecuting a rape charge requires the government to present its evidence to a grand jury and obtain a Superior Court indictment – a pre-requisite to sending a defendant to state prison.  In this instance, the Commonwealth exercised its prerogative to proceed in District Court.

Charge concessions like this are not uncommon.  Often, prosecutors who make them ask for something in return, e.g., a defendant's agreement to plead guilty or accept a particular sentence.  Here, there were no strings attached.  Becker was not only permitted to ask for whatever sentence he wanted; he retained the right to withdraw his plea if the judge exceeded his recommendation.

At the change of plea hearing, Judge Estes noted how the prosecutor's request that Becker spend two years behind bars appeared "at odds" with the contents of an impact statement submitted by one of the victims.  This young woman – referred to as "Victim #1" throughout the proceeding – recommended that Becker be placed on probation and ordered to obtain treatment.  Neither she nor "Victim #2" asked the Court to send the defendant to prison.  In fact, Victim # 1 wrote that Becker had been a friend and she had no desire to participate in "ruining his life."

During her remarks, the prosecutor commended Victim #1 for her "very well written" statement.  Given the fact that Becker would soon be "going off to college," the prosecutor focused on his potential danger to others.  Making Becker register as a sex offender would protect the public, she argued, by putting others "on notice" that he had "this history."

In response, defense counsel quoted from a report authored by a clinician specializing in the treatment of sex offenders.  This clinician determined that Becker posed a "low risk" of reoffending.  In her expert opinion, not only would "[r]equiring him to register as a sex offender" fail to "greatly serve the public interest or public safety," it could "contribute to increased isolation, shame and negative affective states – all of which may make him more vulnerable to a range of expressed behavioral dis-control."  The notion that mandatory registration might prove counter-productive in some cases is hardly radical.  As the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently noted, laws requiring sex offenders to register may "actually increase the risk of recidivism, probably because they exacerbate risk factors for recidivism by making it hard for registrants to get and keep a job, find housing and reintegrate into their communities."

Judge Estes ultimately imposed a sentence within the bounds established by the Legislature and in accordance with the victims' rights statute.  He placed the defendant on probation for two years with certain conditions, including that Becker obtain sex offender counseling, consume no drugs or alcohol and submit to random drug and alcohol screens.  Before announcing this sentence, Judge Estes once again conveyed his respect for the wishes of those most directly impacted by Becker's behavior.  "That is moving to the Court," he stated. "That is telling ...."

Much of the outcry in this case has focused on the characteristics of the defendant.  There is no question that issues of race, class, and gender frequently cause inequities in the administration of justice.  By the same token, it is equally clear that Judge Estes displayed no bias in sentencing David Becker; rather, he correctly considered the fact that Becker had never been in trouble with the law before and was an excellent student.  Nor did his sentence send "a troubling message to victims of sexual assault."  On the contrary, the public record demonstrates the work of a conscientious judge who fashioned a thoughtful disposition in a difficult case.

Michael S. Hussey


President's Message:  June 2016

It was great to see so many of you at our Annual Spring Meeting.  Our thanks go out to Attorney Dean Strang, who became a household name after being featured in the Netflix documentary series "Making a Murderer." And once again we congratulate our award recipients:  Attorneys Anne Goldbach and Robert Sheketoff for their dedication and commitment to due process, constitutional rights, and zealous advocacy.

Continuing Legal Education

Over the past few months, MACDL has sponsored or co-sponsored a number of legal education events. In March, MACDL presented its always popular Post-Conviction Litigation Seminar to a packed house in Boston. Last month, MACDL teamed up with Suffolk Lawyers for Justice for an all-day conference at UMASS-Boston dedicated to criminal law practice. In April, MACDL sponsored a seminar, "Police Misconduct Law for Criminal Defense Practitioners," in Boston hosted by Goodwin Proctor. This program will be repeated on June 22, 2016, in Worcester at 4:00 p.m. and in the fall in Springfield. See website for more details.


The Amicus Committee continues to work zealously and productively to promote our values in cases before the Massachusetts and federal appeals courts. We have signed onto Commonwealth v. Laltaprasad arguing that judges have the power to sentence lower than the minimum

mandatory sentence. Committee Co-Chair Chauncey Wood, along with a team from Foley Hoag, is working on the case of Commonwealth v. Thomas, where the issue is whether a defendant is entitled to suppression of an identification where police fail to follow the I.D. procedures laid out in Silva-Santiago. The amicus brief will likely catalogue all the procedures adopted by Massachusetts police departments in order to demonstrate that the majority of them have already adopted the practices as a matter of internal policy.

FARAK Litigation/Investigation

MACDL has continued to press for a full investigation and public accountability concerning chemist Sonia Farak’s misconduct due to her near daily drug use at the Amherst Drug Lab from 2003-2013, and into allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in relation to post-conviction litigation regarding Farak cases. Our thanks to Board member Luke Ryan for spearheading our efforts in this regard. Earlier this spring, the Attorney General’s office filed a 54 page report detailing Farak’s malfeasance. A second 3 page report, submitted by Special Attorney General (and former judge) Peter Velis, cleared prosecutors of any wrongdoing for the three year delay in revealing information in their possession regarding the scope of Farak’s misconduct. However, other materials now make clear that former prosecutors in the Attorney General’s office deliberately withheld highly exculpatory evidence pertaining to Farak’s history of drug use.

An evidentiary hearing on motions regarding the failure to provide the discovery is expected to take place in the coming month. MACDL will continue to monitor this situation so as to provide support for counsel on these cases and demand fuller accountability and remedies for this misconduct.

Attorney Visitor Dress Code

Acting upon complaints (almost all from women) about attorneys being denied entrance or otherwise hassled at state prisons because of the way they were dressed, MACDL has worked closely with CPCS and other groups to seek changes in DOC procedures. The result is a new and improved dress code for attorney visitors with fewer restrictions and better procedures to be followed if issues arise. A copy of the new code is on the DOC website. Thanks to MACDL members Victoria Kelleher, Patty Dejuneas and others for their efforts in bringing about these changes.

The Elimination of Court Reporters

As many of you know by now, the Trial Court has announced that it will lay off all court reporters by January of 2017 and replace them with digital recording in all courtrooms. Earlier this year, I wrote a letter (joined in by past-presidents Max Stern, Liza Lunt and Jack Cunha) to Chief Justice Gants and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence expressing our serious reservations about this development. We continue to have concerns about this new technology’s ability to produce accurate transcripts and have called for delaying the use of digital recording in serious felony cases until, and only if, the assembly and production of complete and accurate transcripts through digital recording has been sufficiently demonstrated.

Other Activities, etc.

Marty Rosenthal, our representative on the Sentencing Commission, continues his tireless efforts there to advocate for major reforms in Massachusetts sentencing policies and procedures and for shifting resources away from over-criminalization and mass incarceration and toward crime prevention…. Congratulations to our law school Board representative Trevor Maloney on receiving an award from the National Lawyers Guild recently for his volunteer efforts. Good luck on the bar exam! . . . MACDL’s representative on the Working Group of the Council of State Governments, Leslie Walker, reports that the group has recently received and reviewed extensive data which should hopefully provide further support for reforms in three areas: incarceration levels, recidivism, and post-release supervision. . . . MACDL has been working in cooperation with the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in an ongoing series regarding the largely unaddressed problem of prosecutorial misconduct in the provision of discovery and trial argument . . . My thanks to Dave Nathanson and John Thompson for coordinating MACDL’s proposals for revisions to the S.J.C.’s Model Jury Instructions on Homicide . . . MACDL has been asked to support the upcoming referendum question on the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts. If you have a strong opinion as to whether MACDL should take a position on this issue, please contact me at We recently joined with many other criminal justice reform groups in calling upon Governor Baker to fill the current Parole Board vacancy with a social worker, sociologist, psychologist or psychiatrist who is both committed to the objectives of parole and who has a background in treating mental health problems and addiction.

Thanks to all of the attorneys mentioned above for their efforts on behalf of MACDL and for many others who help to make us a strong and active organization. My best wishes to all of you for an enjoyable summer.

Mike Hussey


Click here for a PDF version 



MACDL Announces Witness Advocacy and Representation Network (WARN)

MACDL is pleased to announce the creation of a state-wide Witness Advocacy and Representation Network (WARN) designed to provide pro bono legal representation for individuals who are contacted by law enforcement agents for questioning or interrogation. For more information and to participate, click here.


Comments on Proposed Ethics Changes

MACDL recently submitted our comments to the SJC on the proposed changes to the Code of Professional Responsibility.  Prepared by Marty Rosenthal and Liza Lunt, the comments can be found here.


MACDL Recommendations on Eyewitness Evidence 

In response to the request of the Supreme Judicial Court, MACDL submitted  extensive comments on the draft report and recommendations of the SJC Study  Group on Eyewitness Evidence.  The comments prepared by Lisa Steele were  endorsed by the Board of Directors and sent to the court in a letter from MACDL  President Liza Lunt. For the complete text of MACDL's position, click here.  (You can view a copy of the Study Group's  report here.)

From the Sentencing Project

Marc Mauer, of the Sentencing Project in Washington D.C. offered to share with us two shadow reports submitted by The Sentencing Project to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in advance of its review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) later this month. The first report, Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System documents the impact of racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system and how they violate the ICCPR, which the United States ratified in 1992.

The second report, Democracy Imprisoned: A Review of the Prevalence and Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States, details the impact of felony disenfranchisement laws in the United States in violation of the ICCPR.


Find A Lawyer

MACDL comprises approximately 1,000 criminal defense lawyers, covering all types of criminal defense matters in the federal courts and every state court serving the Commonwealth. You can search our Member list by name or location.

Upcoming events

16 Mar 2018 9:00 AM • WilmerHale, 60 State St., Boston. MA

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 Amicus Committee Updates

September 2017

The Amicus Committee continues to give MACDL a voice in litigation of concern to the defense bar. Click here for the most recent updates. 

For previous updates, click here.  

New Dues Structure for CPCS and Bar Advocates.

If you are a full-time CPCS staff attorney or a Bar Advocate (if 50% of your practice is state court appointed)  your first year of membership is free. Thereafter, your dues are based on the following schedule:

  Admitted for 2-5 years         $50

  Admitted for 6-10 years        $75

  10 years or more                $125.


Calling all new lawyers!

Would you like an experienced MACDL member to help you navigate the criminal practice in Massachusetts?

Well you are in luck! MACDL has created a new lawyer partnership program.

Click here for details. 


Benefits of Membership in MACDL

  • Legal Assistance for Defense Lawyers under Fire 
  • Continuing Legal Education for the Criminal Defense Bar
  • A Powerful Statewide Network of Colleagues
  • A Voice on Legislative and Public Policy Matters
  • A Wealth of Legal Expertise  
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Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL)
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