SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 17, 2014

Letter: Chism case should not be delayed

To the editor:

As reported by Julie Manganis in The Salem News: The case of the Oct. 22 brutal rape, robbing and murder of 24-year-old math teacher Colleen Ritzer of Danvers, allegedly by 14-year-old Philip Chism, has entered an uncertain phase. This is because Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead has raised concerns that applying the “youthful offender” standard to issued indictments may not be appropriate in light of the Christmas Eve ruling by the SJC granting parole eligibility to juvenile offenders after 15 years.

There are two levels of indictments pending. The murder indictment is being treated as an adult offense. Separately, defense attorneys are attempting to have the lesser charges of robbery and the latest one, aggravated rape, as youthful offender charges. Prior to the SJC ruling, lesser charges would not impact the length of potential incarceration if a higher charge took precedence. So, for example, if the charges against Chism lead to comprehensive convictions, life without parole would take precedence as it is weighed against the higher charge, and the lower charges would not impact his sentence of life without parole potentially.

But with the SJC ruling, separating the trials between the two types of charges could potentially dilute the sentence on the adult offense, thereby positioning a possible conviction of Chism to be eligible for parole in his early 30s. Susan Oker, one of Chism’s two defense attorneys, must be brandishing this thought as she has repeatedly referred to her client as “ the juvenile.” They believe their client is entitled to separate proceedings.

Naturally, the prosecutors are urging the judge to defer sending this case for an opinion to the Appeals Court. The initial result will be a potential delay of the case for one year, and secondarily it may risk the outcome of delivering an appropriate sentence. The prosecutors are attempting to join the cases and pursue an aggressive case. They are hoping to center their case on all charges on recently completed evidence, which includes a hard drive of the school’s surveillance tape, a recently completed autopsy report of the victim and soon-to-be completed forensic examination of Chism’s cell phone.

Though Chism is deserving of his day in court and a vigorous defense under the law, the family of the victim deserve to be on an eventual road to closure.

The delaying actions contemplated by Superior Court Judge Whitehead are an unnecessary disruption in the course of justice, and the fault lies in the misguided ruling of the SJC.

Joe D’Amore

Groveland

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium