Manslaughter Sentence for Junta-Evidence not presented at Tr

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Manslaughter Sentence for Junta-Evidence not presented at Tr

Postby Alan K » Fri Jan 25, 2002 6:55 pm

Associated Press headline was Hockey Dad Sentenced Six to 10 years (concerning the sentence of Thomas Junta in Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge today.)

We had discussed this case in this forum and in other forums prior to and during the trial.

In my estimation this is the most famous case and most widely treated by the media in the history of Massachusetts dealing with the self-defense issue and involving bare handed combat.

Certainly the jury had to be affected by the tragedy on the lives of the families of both the defendant and the victim.

IMHO, given the evidence submitted, excessive force was amply demonstrated but doubt created by conflicting evidence was present and the jury had the right to believe any portions of the testimony and to react with some doubt in the area of reasonable doubt required to convict of the more serious Manslaughter charge. The conviction was humane but was it just?
This is the contraversy debated after the trial by pundits in the media and the vox populi.

In Massachusetts the verdict of the jury is not the end of the case. Sentencing is carried out by the trial judge and is conducted in a separate court appearance.

The judge has the right to review impact statements, counsel arguments, and the prior records of the defendant.

Michael Costin's (the victim) middle son, Michael said, "No matter how much of a sentence you give to Thomas Junta, my dad got more."

The judge followd prosecutors'recommended sentence, although he called it lenient and generous and said he considered exceeding it.

During the trial Junta was portrayed as a 270 pound bully by prosecutors and as a gentle giant and devoted husband and father who fell victim to a very bad set of cirumstances.

The jury determined thatJunta didn't intend to kill Costin but that he went too far. Junta said he tried to avoid the fight and only hit Costin in self-defense. The medical examiner testified that Costin suffered severe brain injuries that could have resulted from his head being beaten into the floor.

What was not brought up at trial, was taken into consideration for the sentencing.

Junta's wife, Michelle, was granted a restraining order in 1991 ehen she alleged he beat her in front of their two children and another child. A court ordered Juntaout of the couple's apartment and gave his wife temprary custody of the children.

Junt's lawyer dismissed the restraining order order as irrelevant and stressed that the couple was still together. But the judge today read from part of that order, which said Junta hit his wife at a wedding in front of children.

Costin had a drinking problem and had been in and out of prison for much of his adult life. But he had quit drinking and was working steadily as a carpenter and painter. He had regained custody of his children six months before he was killed.

Do you think that if you were a juror, the foregoing facts revealed at sentencing would have affected you in terms of the verdict?

Junta's attorney stated that he will file an appeal.

If an appeal is filed, the Appellate Division of the Trial Court will report its decision and the issues of self-defense will be set forth in the decision.

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Manslaughter Sentence for Junta-Evidence not presented at Tr

Postby Norm Abrahamson » Fri Jan 25, 2002 8:31 pm

I listened to all of the victim impact statements this morning and most of the defense's argument. The statements read by Costin's two sons were quite touching. By the time the defense started, there probably wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Attorney Orlandi took the tact of minimizing Juntas past incidents of violence as abberations and describing the fight as one of "mutual combat." I think this backfired. The jury already spoke regarding the issue of self defense and force. Despite that, Attorney Orlandi argued that Junta did not really give Costin a bad beating. You can't do any worse than beating a man to death. It was the wrong time to re-argue the facts of the case. I was especially surprised by the Judge's comment that he considered going above the prosecution's sentencing recommendation. Judge Grabeau probably thought the facts pointed to voluntary manslaughter.

This case is a sobering look at what can happen in the aftermath of adrenalin. As Alan said, this case is going up. The Appeals Court will have an opportunity to set out the rules regarding self defense in Massachusetts. I hope they use that opportinity to clarify rather than obfuscate the law.

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Manslaughter Sentence for Junta-Evidence not presented at Tr

Postby gmattson » Fri Jan 25, 2002 11:25 pm

I was able to catch the judges reading of "impact" statements. Did I hear him wrong when he stated that although he could read these statements, he couldn't let them influence his sentencing decision?

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Manslaughter Sentence for Junta-Evidence not presented at Tr

Postby Alan K » Mon Jan 28, 2002 2:42 pm

GEM sensei,

I did get a chance to see the reading of the impact statement but I can't recall whether or not the judge mentioned not being influenced by the statements. He did mention that he was inclined to issue a more stringent sentence and instead accepted the sentence requested by the prosecution.

Two jurors interviewed on Court TV did say that they would not have changed their views based on knowledge of the prior records of Costin and Junta.

Norm is correct in his assessment that the appeals case could clear up some gray areas and to really delve into the many aspects of the laws of self-defense.

This case received national media attention and will be carefully monitored on appeal; I hope that the Appellate Court will treat the broader aspects of the case. Both the
Federal First Court of Appeals, and the Massachusetts Appellate Division of the Trial Court, have gone into great detail on many recent criminal cases, and those involving self-defense, by addressing many issues, their analysis, and important past cases which they cite as a rule of law.

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