March 2012 Archives

March 20, 2012

US Supreme Court Considers Constitutionality of Life Sentences for Youthful Offenders

The United States Supreme Court today heard arguments in the cases of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama on the issue of whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th Amendment, to sentence a youthful offender to life without the possibility of parole. The decision result in a change to Massachusetts law, which currently allows for juvenile life sentences without parole.

By way of background, the court has previously ruled against similar punishments for youth and adult offenders in the past. In 2005, the Court prohibited the imposition of the death penalty for any minor convicted of murder in the case of Roper v. Simmons. Then, in 2010, in the case of Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court prohibited the imposition of a life without the possibility of parole sentence for a minor who committed any crime other than murder.

In both of those cases, the Supreme Court ruled that, due to the immaturity of youthful judgment and moral sense, those punishments were unconstitutional and therefore a form of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment. With those cases as a backdrop, attorneys are urging the court to rule that a sentence of life without parole for the crime of murder is also too severe and unconstitutional.

The decision could have long reaching implications to several cases, including those in Massachusetts, such as the case of John Odgren, who as a teenager, was convicted of First Degree Murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He was 16 at the time of the murder.

Prior to 1996, juveniles charged with murder in Massachusetts would have their cases tried in Juvenile Court. In 1996, however, the Massachusetts legislature amended the law which now mandates that juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 who are charged with murder to have their cases transferred to adult court. In Massachusetts alone, there are 59 inmates who were charged with murder before they were 18. Notably, 38 other states have passed similar laws permitting juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole sentences for murder.

The indication from reporters, following oral arguments, is that the United States Supreme Court will lean towards ruling that sentencing youthful offenders to life without the possibility of parole is not cruel and unusual punishment. ...but the official decision is not expected until sometime this summer.

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March 7, 2012

Boston Man Arraigned for 2011 Jamaica Plain Murder

A 22 year old from Roslindale was arraigned yesterday on Massachusetts Murder Charges in connection with the stabbing death of Kenneth Soto, 19, in October 2011.

The defendant, Hector Soto, was arraigned in the West Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court on First Degree Murder Charges.

According to the Suffolk County D.A.'s Office, prosecutors allege that Hector Soto and Kenneth Soto were in separate vehicles with respective friends in the 7-11 parking lot on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. As Kenneth Soto exited the store, Hector Soto allegedly approached him the two engaged in a fight that resulted in the stabbing death of Kenneth Soto.

First Degree Murder in Massachusetts is the unlawful killing of another with deliberate premeditation and malice, and is punishable by imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.

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March 6, 2012

Cambridge Security Guard Indicted on Rape Charges

A Cambrdige security guard was indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury on several Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges last week.

The security guard, who is reportedly from Hyde Park, has been indicted on sex charges including Assault with Intent to Rape and Indecent Assault and Battery. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court tomorrow.

According to the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, Cambridgeside Galleria police responded to a woman crying for help at 2:00 a.m. on November 11. A review of surveillance video reportedly shows the security guard from Hyde Park escorting a woman around the rear mall entrance to the Cambridgeside Galleria from Thorndike Street. At that point, the man allegedly grabbed the woman, forced himself on her and allegedly sexually assaulted her. The woman was reportedly able to walk away to a nearby hotel where she called for help.

Assault with Intent to Commit Rape in Massachusetts is a felony that is defined as an assault of another with intent to engage in sexual acts without their consent, and is punishable by commitment to state prison for any term of years up to life. If, however, the accused has previously been convicted of Assault with Intent to Commit Rape, the minimum-mandatory penalty to be imposed is 20 years in state prison.

Indecent Assault & Battery in Massachusetts is punishable by imprisonment in the House of Correction for up to 2.5 years, or to state prison for up to 5 years.

A conviction for the crimes of Assault with Intent to Rape and Indecent Assault and Battery would each render the person subject to Sex Offender Registration and require him to submit a sample to the Massachusetts State DNA Database.

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March 1, 2012

Newton Teacher Indicted on Additional Sex Crimes Charges

The Newton Public School teacher who has already been indicted by a Middlesex County Grand Jury on Massachusetts Sex Crime Charges, has now also been indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury on additional sexual assault charges, including Aggravated Assault & Battery on a Child Under 14.

The new charges against the former Newton second-grade elementary school teacher at the Underwood School, David Ettlinger, seem to have arisen from the discovery of files of his computer and from search warrants conducted following his initial arrest.

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office also revealed the discovery of additional photographs that aren't 'pornographic', but have rather termed them as 'troubling.' The photos allegedly depict children playing the playground and on school grounds. Notably, however, Ettlinger did also make an annual video tutorial and photo collage for parents during his tenure at the school, which could also explain these other photographs.

Given the high profile and sensitivity of these charges, however, prosecutors will sort through everything they can find with a fine-tooth comb and certainly seek to charge him with anything they can. It's also been reported that the Ettlinger may also face federal sex crimes charges as well for an alleged connection in a 'global internet pornography ring'.

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