Boston Globe Editorial Board
August 28, 2018
The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Our prison population rate is six times higher than Canada’s and five times higher than England’s. Racial disparities are stark, and the cost of incarceration is huge — some $80 billion per year.
Clearly, something is amiss with our criminal justice system. But what to do?
For years, the public conversation has focused on improving police-community relations and softening harsh sentencing laws. And both are worthy endeavors. But for too long we have ignored the single most powerful actor in the system — the prosecutor.
Prosecutors have enormous discretion. If they accept a case, they must decide whether to file charges or seek an alternative resolution, like restitution or diversion to drug or mental health treatment. And national data show they’ve grown far more aggressive on that score, charging 2 in 3 arrestees where they used to charge just 1 in 3.
We can do better. That’s why next week’s Democratic primaries for district attorney in Suffolk and Middlesex counties are so important.
In Middlesex, the Globe endorses Ryan’s challenger, Donna Patalano , based on her impressive vision and breadth of experience. Once a prosecutor, she developed a deeper understanding for the criminal justice system, she says, when she became a defense attorney and worked on behalf of “people who don’t look like me.”
Patalano puts a heavy emphasis on data-driven leadership and transparency. And she’s made a strong commitment to building a more diverse prosecutor corps, promising to release demographic data on who gets job interviews with her office. She’s also pledged to address a worrisome pattern of turnover in the Middlesex district attorney’s office, creating the stability she’ll need to push through reform.
Together, progressive district attorneys in Middlesex and Suffolk counties could go a long way toward rethinking the role of prosecutor, setting new metrics for success, and putting Massachusetts where it belongs — on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform.
Lowell Sun editorial board
september 1, 2018
As in previous elections, the winner of the Democratic race for Middlesex district attorney -- between incumbent Marian Ryan and challenger Donna Patalano -- won't face any Republican opposition in November. So rather than being a dress rehearsal, the primary election on Sept. 4 becomes the main event.
The winning candidate earns the responsibility of overseeing the criminal-justice system in Middlesex County, by far the most populous in the state. As such, that person should be someone the commonwealth's other 10 DAs strive to emulate.
As this county's chief law-enforcement officer, that person, through the conduct and culture of that department, must be someone who has earned the respect of the office's many attorneys and support staff, and the trust of the almost 2 million citizens it serves.
So, the choice for voters in this race comes down to determining the individual who would best inspire that confidence from inside and outside DA headquarters.
Ryan, 63, has spent more than three decades in the DA's office in several capacities, Gov. Deval Patrick appointed the Belmont Democrat to fill out Gerry Leone's unexpired DA term in April 2013.
While Ryan points to the recent downturn in opioid-related deaths and the many positive working relationships cultivated among the police departments in the county, especially in the Merrimack Valley, her management style and reluctance to share pertinent details of concluded investigations with the press and public have rubbed people the wrong way.
Her inability to retain staff is reflected in a reported 25 percent turnover during her five years as Middlesex DA, a statistic that even the notoriously low pay and high workload of assistant district attorneys can't explain.
But according to Patalano, Ryan's insular, nonresponsive style would be shown the door if she carries the day on Sept. 4.
Patalano, 51, resigned from her position as Suffolk County District Attorney's chief of professional integrity and ethics to mount a full-time campaign for Middlesex DA. The Winchester Democrat would bring a wide range of valuable professional experience to the position, having worked in health-care management before attaining a law degree and spending time as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.
That stint as a defense attorney opened her eyes to the disparity in treatment by race and economic standing that exists in our justice system. To counter that imbalance, Patalano said, if elected, she will form a juvenile and emerging adult bureau as a means to lower recidivism and give young people the means to become productive members of society.
And instead of being reactive, Patalano vows to be proactive when it comes to releasing DA department data on pretrial incarcerations, those prosecuted, and those selected to participate in remedial programs, where they receive counseling and/or perform community service in lieu of prosecution.
While not required by law, Patalano believes that transparency's the best policy.
We're encouraged by the breadth of expertise and enthusiasm Patalano has displayed in her campaign. We believe those traits would also be a hallmark of her tenure as Middlesex DA, and so urge a vote for Donna Patalano on Sept. 4.
By Norman Miller
September 1, 2018
Democratic challenger for Middlesex District Attorney, Patalano calls for transparency and using data to track fairness of the criminal justice system. Patalano faces Democratic incumbent District Attorney Marian Ryan in Tuesday’s Primary Election. There is no GOP candidate in the race.
FRAMINGHAM - There’s an inequity in the criminal justice system that treats people of different races and disparate socio-economic backgrounds differently and Donna Patalano wants to change that.
Patalano, 53, is challenging incumbent Marian Ryan to serve as Middlesex district attorney. The Democratic primary is Tuesday, but with no Republican candidate, Tuesday’s results will determine the outcome of the election.
“We have a broken criminal justice system,” said Patalano, a former Suffolk County prosecutor and defense attorney. “We do know in Massachusetts that we incarcerate black men at eight times the rate of white men.”
Patalano specialized in appellate litigation when she first worked in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. She left to become a defense attorney, which she said opened her eyes to problems within the system.
“It wasn’t until I became a defense lawyer that I saw that the system treated different people differently,” she said this week when she sat down with the Daily News editorial board. “People of color were being treated differently.”
If elected, Patalano said she will do away with prosecutors requesting cash bail, except in the case of violent crimes and, in some cases, for those with a history of repeatedly skipping court appearances.
“We have a debtor’s prison in Massachusetts,” she said. “If I had $100 in cash, I could go up to the Middlesex jail in Billerica and buy someone’s freedom. That’s crazy.”
Patalano said she wants to create several units as Middlesex district attorney, including a conviction integrity unit. The goal is to review cases for potential mistakes that led to the conviction of innocent people. She also wants to create a public integrity unit, which will review and investigate all allegations of abuse of power, police force and officer involved shootings.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office turnover rate is double that of any other district attorney’s office in Massachusetts, Patalano said, adding she wants to change that.
She said not only does that make it difficult for the office to prosecute a case when new prosecutors pick them up in mid-stream, it often makes victims have to go through the process of describing what happened over and over as different prosecutors handle a case.
A district attorney’s pay is low, but is uniform in all counties, she said. So there has to be another reason for the turnover, Patalano reasoned.
“I think it’s a management style,” she said. “It’s not about pay. If it was just about pay, it wouldn’t be twice as bad. I will take my management experience so that we don’t have a turnover rate that is so bad.”
By Maria Cramer
September 1, 2018
As the district attorney in Middlesex since 2013, Marian Ryan pushed for the statewide expansion of restorative justice, an alternative to traditional prosecution that calls on a criminal offender to atone and help make victims whole.
As a prosecutor in the Suffolk District Attorney’s office, Donna Patalano held trainings on implicit bias and cultural competency, a course that urged prosecutors to be mindful of their language and behavior in front of victims and defendants. She unofficially dubbed it: “How not to be a [expletive] in court.”
In a campaign defined by calls for more aggressive criminal justice reform, both Democrats in the race for Middlesex District Attorney have cited such moves as examples of their progressive-minded approach. With the Sept. 4 primary just days away, Ryan, 63, is relying on her background as a veteran criminal prosecutor to show she has the credibility to push prosecutorial reforms not just in her county, but statewide.
Patalano, 53, who began her career in health care management and did not earn her law degree until she was 35, is trying to sell voters on the diversity of her background, as both a county prosecutor and later a defense attorney who specialized in appellate cases.
Faced with two seemingly similar candidates, voters in the state’s most populous county are trying to draw clear distinctions between them, said Lori Kenschaft, an Arlington resident and coordinator of the Mass Incarceration Working Group of First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington, where nearly 400 people showed up on a stifling July night to hear the two candidates debate.
“What I keep saying is we’re lucky in Middlesex to have two strong, progressive candidates and if they were running somewhere else, I’d happily vote for either of them,” she said.
With no Republicans in the race, Tuesday’s winner will take the seat.
Patalano is telling voters she will be strikingly different from Ryan, whom she faulted for running an office that is losing experienced prosecutors at a higher rate than other counties, failing to release racial data on prosecutions, and announcing policy reforms that give prosecutors little guidance on how to implement them.
“There is an intellectual dishonesty at the core of that office that is troubling,” Patalano said. “She says one thing in public and she does another thing in the courtroom.”
By aaron curtis
August 25, 2018
LOWELL -- Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan or former defense attorney and Suffolk County prosecutor Donna Patalano -- who will be Middlesex County's next DA?
Ryan has held the seat since April 2013, when then-Gov. Deval Patrick appointed her to fill Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone's unexpired four-year term.
With an absence of Republican candidates in the 2014 general election, Ryan went on to defeat Michael Sullivan, the Middlesex Clerk of Courts, in that year's winner-take-all Democratic primary.
"I'm very proud of what we built here," Ryan said about her time in office. "I am running again to continue that walk -- particularly as it relates to Lowell and the Merrimack Valley area. I've spent a lot of time building relationships with the critical stakeholders that are critical to continuing the progress we've made. We've done a lot in the last five years."
Patalano resigned from her position as Suffolk County District Attorney's Chief of Professional Integrity & Ethics to campaign full time for the Middlesex DA position. The Winchester Democrat worked in health-care management before going into law school and spending time as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.
"When I was a defense attorney, it really opened my eyes," Patalano said. "I was seeing the justice system through my clients' perspective. My clients didn't look like me. They were all black and brown, and I saw and recognized that our justice system treats different people differently.
During a Sun editorial board meeting in April, Patalano said if she wins the local DA seat, she will form a juvenile and emerging adult bureau as a means to lower recidivism and give young people "a meaningful exit strategy to be a productive member of society."
Patalano has been critical of Ryan throughout her campaign, saying transformative change is needed in the DA's Office. During the editorial meeting, Patalano labeled the office as a "black box" when it comes to releasing such data as pretrial incarcerations, who is prosecuted versus who is diverted and the outcomes of diversion programs.
District attorneys aren't required to release the information by law, but Patalano said she believes in transparency and accountability.
"Right now the justice system in Middlesex County is operating in a black hole, and I think we need to shine a bright light on it, so we make sure we have a justice system that doesn't treat different people differently," Patalano said.
Ryan called it disingenuous to say a lack of data released by her office is unique to Middlesex County, noting the ability to gather data isn't available statewide.
The Belmont resident added she has built a partnership with Northeastern Criminal Justice Bureau and with the American Institute of Research to build databases. She expects the data will show there are some inequities.
"I've been addressing those inequities," Ryan said. "I'm not waiting for the data to show me there's an inequity."
As a young lawyer in 1980, Ryan was the victim of a violent armed robbery that resulted in the murder of her then-boyfriend.
"There is no one who has a better sense than I do of the needs and appreciates the needs of victims," said Ryan, highlighting her office's victim witness bureau and pro-bono lawyer program.
Ryan has become involved in educating senior citizens through classes regarding financial scams. She has also talked to children about topics such as swimming and back-to-school safety.
"As important as prosecution is to us, as I say often, prevention and education is better," Ryan said. "It's better if you never become the victim or you never witness a crime or you never get involved in criminal activity, so I spend a lot of my time in the community providing education."
Both candidates referenced the opioid crises as a top-challenge to the DA's office.
Ryan points to last year's numbers showing the fatal overdoses in Lowell going down slightly more than 20 percent, which she said her office played a part in.
Patalano referenced the numbers released by Trinity EMS that showed the 99 opioid-related calls in July were 10 more than the next highest month since the company started tracking the numbers in January 2013.
"What can the district attorney do about that?" Patalano said. "What's happening in the courtroom? Who gets access to drug court to try to get healthy through programs put in place where the DA helps people get out of the grip of addiction? Is it the kid in Lowell or the businessman in Weston? Go sit in drug court, and I think you'll see more people who have resources in the drug court than not. If something works, shouldn't everybody in Middlesex County have access to that?"
The winner of the Sept. 4 Democratic primary between Ryan and Patalano will be the only name on the ballot during the November general election. As in 2014, there will be no Republican candidates running for the seat, though write-in candidates will be allowed.
Sweat, shoe leather, and passion in the Middlesex DA race
BY RACHELLE G. COHEN
August 22nd, 2018
With a population of 1.6 million, Middlesex County is larger than four New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island for those keeping score). Its district attorney is the chief law enforcement officer for 54 cities and towns — and as many police departments — and presides over a “law firm” of some 150 prosecutors.
And yet the post is so far “down ballot” that few even know it’s an elected position — and, sadly, even fewer care.
Donna Patalano wants to make them care — and she’s got a week left to do that before the Sept. 4 Democratic primary in which she is taking on incumbent DA Marian Ryan, who was initially appointed to the post in 2013 and then won election in 2014.
With no Republican in the November general election, this is winner take all.
Which explains why Patalano was door-to-door campaigning in Somerville on a day when the heat index topped 100 degrees. No one said it would be easy to make people care — it takes sweat and shoe leather and passion.
Passion she’s got.
“There are systemic problems in our courts. Different people are treated differently,” she said in an interview. “Until we have a district attorney who recognizes those racial and economic disparities, it’s not going to change.”
Patalano is no naïf in the world of criminal justice. She has been a prosecutor in Suffolk County, a member and then chair of the Board of Bar Overseers, a defense lawyer, and most recently chief of Suffolk County DA Dan Conley’s Professional Integrity and Ethics division, building the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
Ryan facing spirited challenge with calls for reform in the air
By Michael Jonas
August 3rd, 2018
DONNA PATALANO, who is challenging incumbent Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, looks like exactly the right candidate at the right time.
The Winchester attorney is pushing a strong reform platform focused on addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system and the need to rethink policies of the tough-on-crime era of the 1980s and 90s. It should be a particularly appealing message in the liberal-leaning county, and it comes amidst a reform wave that has states and communities across the country looking to new approaches that can protect public safety while lowering incarceration rates.
The biggest challenge for Patalano’s reform message? She’s up against a sitting district attorney who has positioned herself as a progressive leader on those very issues, someone who has bucked her fellow DAs by embracing reforms that they opposed.
The result is a lively Democratic primary face-off for an important office, but one that lacks some of the sharp contrasts that let voters draw clear distinctions between candidates, a dynamic that will probably play to Ryan’s advantage.
What Ryan calls the record of a “proven progressive,” however, Patalano calls the moves of a savvy operator who is adapting to the changing political winds.
“She’s definitely moving to the left after she was challenged by me, but that kind of lip service isn’t enough,” said Patalano, who pointed to Ryan’s move in January to end the practice of asking for cash bail in routine cases involving low-level offenses. “We need a different perspective. My opponent has been a prosecutor since Jimmy Carter was president.”
Ryan is a career prosecutor who joined the Middlesex DA’s office in 1979 and has directed several units there during that time.
Patalano has had a more varied career. She worked in health care management before going to law school while in her 30s. She has served as a defense lawyer, chaired the state board of bar overseers, which monitors the conduct of lawyers, and worked in the Suffolk County DA’s office, where she developed the office’s first conviction integrity unit that reviews possible wrongful convictions.
By Dirk Stryker
August 2nd, 2018
The primary election race for Middlesex County District Attorney moved into high gear on Tuesday, July 24, with a very informative debate between incumbent Marian Ryan and challenger Donna Patalano. Each of these candidates claims to be a progressive, and they share the same position on a number of issues, but there are several essential differences between them. Marian Ryan has worked as a prosecutor for close to 40 years, most of it in the Middlesex County DA’s office. She was first appointed as district attorney in 2013 and then elected in 2014. In the debate, she emphasized her experience in Middlesex County, her connections with many people of different persuasions, and her ability to get things done.
Donna Patalano first had a 10-year career in health care management and then started law school in her 30s. She joined the Suffolk County DA’s office as assistant district attorney and then moved on to become defense attorney for people who could not afford to hire a lawyer. Here she experienced much of the dark side of the criminal justice system. Alarmed at what she saw, she returned to the Suffolk County DA’s office as chief of professional integrity and ethics, where she trained hundreds of prosecutors in the furtherance of justice. Appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court as chair of the board of bar overseers, she presided over cases of prosecutorial misconduct. This career path revealed to her a judicial system that is broken, where the pain felt by victims and offenders alike is distributed very unequally by race, ethnicity and age.
The debate revealed that the two candidates differ other ways as well. Marian Ryan gives more weight to personal contact. To first-hand observation and direct communication. Donna Patalano wants to see the numbers. What is the impact of racial bias on sentencing in the courtroom? Does diversion in lieu of incarceration reduce recidivism? Why have more people been incarcerated pre-trial rather than post-trial in Middlesex County? How have these numbers changed now that low-level, nonviolent offenses are supposed to be exempted from cash bail. There is currently an enormous lack of data in the criminal justice system, especially at the district attorney level. There is also a lack of transparency and public access to what is available.
But make up your own mind. Watch the debate at http://acmi.tv/videos/middlesex-county-district-attorney-governers-council-candidate-debate, or ACMI TV.
Dirck Stryker, Bartlett Avenue
By Joe Walsh
July 25th, 2018
On Sept. 4, voters in Middlesex County will choose a candidate for district attorney from either incumbent. Marian Ryan or challenger Donna Patalano. The winner will move on to the general election in November. According to the secretary of state’s office, there is no Republican running for Middlesex DA.
Ryan and Patalano largely agree in principle but diverge somewhat on implementation on the issues of restorative justice and equity,
During a debate at Arlington’s First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church Tuesday evening – hosted by the ACLU and the Leagues of Women Voters of Arlington, Lexington, and Winchester, and the Mass Incarceration Working Group of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington – the two candidates had a chance to make their cases to an audience of more than 180 people.
Ryan argued her five-year track record as DA has made the county a statewide leader in restoration and prevention, while Patalano focused on longstanding inequities in the criminal justice system and insisted on greater transparency with results and data.
Both candidates reinforced their progressive credentials, drawing upon past advocacy for reform. Ryan – a longtime attorney in the Middlesex DA’s office before ascending to District Attorney – called herself a “proven progressive.” Patalano – who has served both as a prosecutor for the Suffolk County DA and as a defense attorney – promised to leverage data and her experience to effect “transformative and transparent change.”
Amid focus on criminal justice reform, Massachusetts district attorney races draw more candidates, attention in 2018
July 9th, 2018
By Shira Schoenberg
There is also a national trend toward rethinking tough-on-crime policies. In Philadelphia, progressive Larry Krasner was elected district attorney in 2017 on a platform of ending mass incarceration. In 2016, Kim Foxx, a Democratic former Planned Parenthood board chairwoman, was elected district attorney in Chicago. She has made a point of focusing on more serious crimes rather than smaller crimes like shoplifting, which mostly ensnare poor individuals.
Several Massachusetts candidates are coming from a progressive political bent, with a focus on rehabilitation, diversion and treatment of underlying problems like substance abuse.
"The idea that all we've asked of DAs in the past is to be law-and-order candidates, that's a failed experiment," said Patalano, the challenger in Middlesex County. "People now are demanding to have a justice system that can function as the moral backbone of our government."
Patalano said she was inspired to run by Krasner's election and by work done by MassINC, a Boston-based think tank that supports criminal justice reform.
"People are disillusioned. They have come to appreciate that the system is broken," Patalano said.
Her platform is focused on transparency in the district attorney's office, particularly with regard to racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
"We have a justice system that treats different people differently," Patalano said. "Until we elect DAs willing to acknowledge that and address disparities, it's not going to change."
The case also led to friction between the city and prosecutors in the Middlesex district attorney’s office, who told city officials they could not investigate DiFronzo, citing a conflict of interest because he had worked closely with several senior prosecutors, according to the internal documents. A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said DiFronzo was also a witness in the ongoing case against Machado.
Middlesex referred the case to the attorney general’s office, which ultimately declined to charge DiFronzo.
City officials said they felt “abandoned” by Middlesex prosecutors, who also declined to testify in the hearing against DiFronzo. The spokeswoman for the Middlesex DA told the Globe the office does not participate in other agencies’ personnel matters.
Ryan, who is up for reelection, was criticized Wednesday by her opponent, Democrat Donna Patalano, who said the case showed the need for an official policy that explains how prosecutors choose which cases of alleged police misconduct to investigate.
“The lack of an existing formal investigation procedure, developed before we’re confronted by disturbing incidents, is troubling,” Patalano said. “A written protocol for investigations involving conflicts of interest and officer-involved use-of-force is a best practice. Such a policy protects both the public and law enforcement because it provides a credible, transparent process for all parties.”
Ryan’s office declined to comment on that statement.
May 2nd, 2018
LOWELL -- Middlesex District Attorney candidate Donna Patalano blasted the incumbent Marian Ryan in a Sun Editorial Board meeting last week, labeling the office a "black box" when it comes to releasing such data as pretrial incarcerations, who is prosecuted versus who is diverted, the outcomes of diversion programs and the details of how her just under $17 million budget is spent.
By law, district attorneys aren't required to release this information, Patalano said, but she believes greater transparency and accountability are needed.
Middlesex has a great Drug Court, but no data is released about who gets to benefit from it, said Patalano, a Winchester Democrat who seeks to unseat Ryan.
"Do I know if the kid from Lowell is getting the same fair treatment as the kid from Weston?" Patalano said in a Thursday editorial board meeting with The Sun. "Absolutely not, and neither do you."
"We track case-related information internally and report numerous sets of data to the Legislature annually. We recognize the important role data plays in understanding the criminal justice system and we have been working with the Legislature to expand and improve this process," Ryan spokeswoman Meghan Kelly said in response to Patalano's "black box comments. "The data collection provisions of the Criminal Justice Reform law are a critical step toward this goal. There will be a significant financial cost for these statewide system updates.
We will work with the Legislature and the Governor's Office to secure funding for this important initiative."
A former assistant district attorney under Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, Patalano said Middlesex County deserves a district attorney who will lead the conversation on equitable criminal justice reform and isn't afraid to "shine a bright light" on racial disparities in the justice system.
WINCHESTER — Democratic candidate for District Attorney Donna Patalano, of Winchester, announced her plan to draw on the latest medical and psychological research to improve outcomes for young adults involved in the criminal justice system.
The proposed Juvenile & Emerging Adult Bureau will bring together social workers, victim witness advocates, and assistant district attorneys in specialized units. Lawyers and staff will be trained to understand and utilize evidence that brain development continues through adolescence and into early adulthood.
“The criminal justice bill released from committee last week unfortunately does not include raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction,” Patalano said. “Creating this Bureau will give us the chance to make a real difference for young adults, their families, and our communities by providing developmentally appropriate interventions to young adults. This work must be a priority.”
The Juvenile & Emerging Adult Bureau will include four components that maximize the ability to rehabilitate young people under the age of 25. In addition to prioritizing the use of diversion and restorative justice, the Bureau will collect data at every point of a young person’s interaction with the criminal justice system to ensure equity and fairness in prosecutions, and allow communities to hold the office accountable to those goals.
“This proposal is a much-needed innovation supported by the best research in brain science and adolescent and young adult development." said Dr. Robert Kinscherff, a forensic psychologist on the faculty of William James College and the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital. "Prioritizing diversion and restorative justice for young adults presents a great opportunity to reduce criminal recidivism and promote community safety."
Priorities for the new bureau will include:
• Data Collection: We cannot correct inequity in the system if we cannot identify the source. The Bureau will collect data to ensure equity, establish a new norm for decision-making informed by data, and welcome accountability.
• Supporting Victims: As a key component of initial case screening, Bureau staff will assess whether victims are eligible for assistance from the Victim Witness Fund. The Bureau will also work with victims to ensure that their needs are met throughout investigation and prosecution or diversion of the case.
• Improving Outcomes: Recidivism is more likely to be reduced when interventions are evidence-based and outcomes are measured. Bureau staff will work with researchers and experts in the field to identify programs that work to put offenders on course for productive lives, and will assess impact on a yearly basis to determine the 1, 3, and 5 year rates of recidivism.
• Effective Screening: Case screening is an early opportunity to disrupt the cycle of recidivism. Bureau screenings will follow a validated rubric to reduce the impact of implicit bias. Screenings will determine whether a prosecution or diversion is the most appropriate next step.
• Community Collaboration: To ensure success, the Bureau will further develop and expand partnerships with community-based organizations. Dedicated staff will work with partners to write for grants and dedicate resources to evidence-based programs.
“Too many young people in Middlesex County are being incarcerated. A young person’s prospects to obtain an education, a job, or housing are severely limited by a criminal record and a history of incarceration,” said Patalano. “Because the criminal justice system disproportionately impacts minority communities, the incarceration of young people hits these communities hardest. As District Attorney, I will prioritize this work to ensure that the young adult in Lowell is receiving the same fair treatment as the one in Weston.”
A former defense attorney and past chair of the Board of Bar Overseers, Patalano left her most recent position as the Chief of Professional Ethics and Integrity in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in November. Patalano and her husband live in Winchester, where they raised their three children.
Winchester’s Donna Patalano wants to bring transparency to the Middlesex DA’s office
by: Mariya Manzhos
When Donna Patalano looks back at the proudest moments of her career, she thinks of Frederick Clay, a Roslindale man who was convicted of murder at 16 years old and, despite maintaining his innocence, ended up in prison for 38 years. Then an assistant district attorney at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Patalano took on Clay’s case as part of the Conviction Integrity Program she developed to investigate claims of innocence. In a hearing last year, a judge vacated Clay’s conviction setting him free, a moment that brought into focus for Patalano the life-changing impact a district attorney’s office can have.
“That’s really what we’re supposed to do as prosecutors is to work in the furtherance of justice, not just get a conviction,” said Patalano, a longtime Winchester resident.
Seeing both sides of a case
On Sept. 4, Patalano will challenge Marian Ryan in the Democratic primary for Middlesex County District Attorney. Ryan, the only female district attorney in the Commonwealth, was widely criticized for her handling of the 2014 Jared Remy murder case and for failing to release the details of an investigative report into the case. In the 2014 election, her opponent criticized what he described as her harsh management style. With Suffolk County DA Dan Conley’s recent announcement that he will not seek reelection, and other candidates challenging incumbents in Massachusetts, Patalano says, the time is ripe for new, progressive leaders to come forward.