Wednesday, July 8, 2015

SJC Delivers a Spanking

SJC affirms parental right to discipline their children

Even if they were just playing?

And if you don't learn the lesson the first time?

"Murder suspect’s twin does not have to give DNA, SJC rules" by John R. Ellement Globe Staff  June 17, 2015

The state’s highest court ruled Wednesday that the twin brother of a man charged with murder does not have to share his DNA profile with Suffolk prosecutors, who contend the genetic information could help prove who stabbed a South Boston woman to death in her home in 2012.

The unanimous ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court comes in the case of Timothy Kostka, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Barbara Coyne, a 67-year-old grandmother who was murdered in her East Seventh Street home on April 16, 2012.

Not a shooting.

Kostka has a brother, Christopher, who has described them as fraternal rather than identical twins. Identical twins have identical DNA; fraternal twins, like everyone else, have unique genetic profiles.

Suffolk County prosecutors wanted to examine Christopher Kostka’s genetic material, saying that if his profile, as expected, is different from his brother’s, then defense attorneys could not raise any doubts at trial if DNA at the scene is found to match Timothy’s DNA.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge and the state Appeals Court both sided with Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office. But the state’s highest court disagreed, and instead endorsed defense attorney John H. Cunha Jr.’s argument that Christopher’s constitutional rights would be violated if he was compelled to share his genetic information.

“We conclude that Christopher’s DNA has not been shown to be sufficiently relevant or important to the question of Timothy’s guilt or innocence so as to outweigh Christopher’s constitutional rights,’’ Justice Fernande R.V. Duffly wrote. Christopher Kostka is not facing charges in the Coyne murder.

Cunha applauded the ruling, saying it should send a signal to law enforcement that an individual’s constitutional rights must be respected, especially someone who does not have a role in a crime being investigated.

Conley spokesman Jake Wark called the SJC ruling a “curious decision,” given that two other courts had looked at the same evidence and concluded the DNA evidence could be important in the prosecution.

Still, Wark said, Timothy Kostka’s trial will go forward as planned later this year.

Under the earlier court rulings, Cunha said, “if you were walking down the street when this happened, you’d have to give a sample. But the constitutional protections are there to protect us from authority.’’

In the ruling, the SJC said that under state law, prosecutors have to prove a crime has been committed, and must then prove that biological evidence from someone who is not charged with the crime will help determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence.

“The relevance of Christopher’s DNA to Timothy’s guilt . . . is attenuated,” the high court said. “Nor does it appear that the absence of Christopher’s DNA would have any significant impact on the Commonwealth’s ability to present its case.”

Prosecutors, the court said, can allegedly tie Timothy Kostka to Coyne’s slaying through fingerprint evidence, and a surveillance video that they say shows him cashing lottery tickets stolen from Coyne’s home shortly after her death.

“By all these means, the Commonwealth is capable of meeting its burden of proof, without intruding on the constitutional rights of a third party who is not suspected of having committed, or of aiding in the commission of, the crime,’’ Duffly wrote.


UPDATESJC throws out murder charge because prosecutors took too long

That's three. One more and it's child abuse, right?

Also see: Prosecutors describe murder of South Boston woman in 2012

Related: South Boston man gets life in prison for woman’s slaying

Oh, he was a heroin addict, too, huh?