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.