Leonardo Angiulo: Massachusetts Family Sees Justice After 40 Years
Monday, September 16, 2013
According to press releases, this was an unsolved case until 2011 when undisclosed evidence led to this defendant and two others being charged with the murder. The McCabe family, and the investigating members of law enforcement, should be commended for waiting diligently for the case to break.
According to Massachusetts General Laws chapter 277, section 63, an indictment for murder may be found at any time after the death of the person alleged to be murdered. This is the principle of law that gives real meaning to the work of cold case teams typically found as part of police departments and prosecutors offices.
As in the case that led to the conviction of Walter Shelley, older cases are kept open by these teams because there is no way to forecast how an essential piece of evidence may come to light. Often, these cases are reopened when an eye-witness comes forward to tell what they know. In many cases, this could turn out to be a co-defendant. In the case of John McCabe's death, a co-defendant provided the central evidence resulting in Defendant Shelley's conviction.
When co-defendants testify it is often only after an agreement is made between that co-defendant and the Prosecution for favorable treatment at their own sentencing in exchange for testimony. This circumstance presents challenges for both defense attorneys and prosecutors. For the defense, the cooperating witness will typically have details and information about what happened on a night that only someone who was there could tell you. It can be hard to shake the credibility of a person who recounts difficult things with intense detail. For Prosecutors, co-defendant's can be hard to rely on to prove their case because in many cases they may have criminal records in addition to the current offenses that motivate their desire to testify. A jury may see the cooperating witness' testimony as tainted by self-preservation rather than the truth. In this case, however, the prosecutors of DA Ryan's office had no problem meeting their burden of proof.
Justice Has No Expiration Date
When it comes to the long wait for justice, there is no question that families of victims suffer. While there is often no consolation they can find until the death of their loved ones is solved, they should know that when it is solved there will be a trial. Law Enforcement is ready to act; the District Attorneys of the Commonwealth have prosecutors who will try the case and there is no statute of limitations to act as a loophole. There is no clock to run down for a defendant. They have to live every day knowing that this might be the day that the weight of what they've done comes down on them.
Leonardo Angiulo is an Attorney with the firm of Glickman, Sugarman, Kneeland & Gribouski in Worcester handling legal matters across the Commonwealth. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the firm's website at www.gskandglaw.com.
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