I hope this edition of our legislative update finds you and your family well at the beginning of the fall season. What a great time of year this is with political campaigns in full swing, kids back at school, and football season having started. As an elected official, I am appreciative of the football season being back, especially because of the NFL replacement referees. It seems that they have a lower approval rating than most politicians, so they are making us look good! Glad to see the veteran referees are back in action.
As the end 2011-2012 legislative session draws near, there have been two major issues that have recently been reported on that I would like to touch on and offer my perspective.
Department of Public Health Crime Lab Scandal
It was recently discovered that an employee at the state’s crime lab was under qualified, lied on her resume, and had been mishandling criminal evidence during her tenure as a chemist. Due to this revelation, thousands of criminal cases that involved drugs will be reviewed, and possible reopened, with those incarcerated possibly being released. One particular case in which the chemist testified who convicted on drug trafficking and gun charges.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, I joined my colleagues in calling for a massive shakeup at the Department of Public Health and the Crime Lab. Department of Public Health commissioner, John Auerbach, recently resigned his post. Right now, the Patrick Administration has hired a former Middlesex County prosecutor to look into the failings, fraud, and lack of transparency in the crime lab. Also, the Attorney General’s office has opened an investigation into the scandal. The impact of this scandal will have far reaching implications by putting potentially violent convicted criminals back on the streets, putting a strain on our court system and our district attorneys, and putting witnesses who may have testified against one of the inmates due to be released at risk.
As someone who served 35 years in our justice system, I am greatly disappointed at the total lack of respect and transparency regarding an important and crucial part of our system of justice in the Commonwealth. For several years, legislators have worked towards putting together Melissa’s Law, only to see other parts of our justice system failing us. I for one will be keeping close watch on the investigation and looking into ways we can prevent such incompetence and fraud from occurring again.
Taxpayer funded gender reassignment surgery
Michelle Kosilek, previously known as Robert, was convicted of brutally murdering his wife in 1990. Shortly after his incarceration, Kosilek was diagnosed with gender identity disorder. Due to issues during incarceration including multiple suicide attempts, Kosilek’s attorneys petition the US District Court for a gender reassignment or sex-change operation. Chief Judge Mark Wolfe ruled in favor of Kosilek, requiring that the Massachusetts Department of Correction pay for such a procedure.
I was a lead signatory of a letter, also signed by a bipartisan group of 54 legislators, which was sent to the Department of Corrections urging the department to appeal Chief Judge Wolfe’s decision. It is not the responsibility of the taxpayer to bear the burden of the cost of gender reassignment surgery of an inmate that is serving life in prison for brutally and heinously murdering his wife. While I understand the psychological issues involved in this situation, I do not support the use of taxpayer funding to address it.
I was glad to see the Department of Corrections has decided to appeal the ruling last week.
Office Hours reminder
Monthly office hours are held the 3rd Monday of the month at Woburn Senior Center from 1:30-2:30pm and Woburn City Hall in the Committee Room at 3:00-4:00pm. If you are unable to attend office hours but would like to meet to discuss an issue or concern, please don’t hesitate to call 617-722-2220 or email James.Dwyer@mahouse.gov to schedule an appointment.