Around New England

One Year After Cape Cop Shot To Death, Little Has Changed

April 13, 2019

A year after a Yarmouth police officer was shot and killed by a multiple-repeat-offender he was trying to arrest, several bills designed to make it easier to hold dangerous criminals haven’t even gotten a hearing in the state Legislature.

Sergeant Sean Gannon was shot April 12, 2018 in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod by a man wanted on a warrant who had previously been charged with crimes 75 times.

Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill after Gannon’s death that would remove the limit on how long a defendant may be held if he is determined to be a danger to the community. The governor also wants to change the way bail is set and subsequently handled on appeal. He refiled it this past January for the new legislative session.

Another case from the Cape last year also led the governor to seek changes in the law. On July 28, 2018, a 32-year-old Mashpee man coming home from the hospital where his wife had just given birth was killed in a car crash in Cotuit initiated by a 22-year-old Fall River resident who was bolting from a police traffic stop. At the time the Fall River man was out on bail on a drunken driving charge which occurred while he was out on bail in connection with a previous, pending homicide charge. He and his passenger died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Massachusetts House Bill 66, filed by the governor, would require judges to revoke bail and detain defendants if the judge finds “that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed a felony or dangerous crime while on release” and if “by a preponderance of the evidence, that there are no conditions of release that will reasonably assure the defendant will not pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community, or the defendant is unlikely to abide by any condition or combination of conditions of release.”

Preponderance of the evidence is a significantly lower standard than reasonable doubt, which is the standard needed to convict a defendant of a crime.

The bill would also create a task force to try to make it easier to share information about criminal history.

“The task force shall develop recommendations for enhancements to the criminal history information available to bail commissioner, bail magistrates, judicial officers, prosecutors and defense counsel that will allow actors in the criminal justice system to make more informed recommendations and decisions regarding questions of pre-trial release and allow for access to pre-trial release conditions by law enforcement,” House Bill 66 states.

The only post-shooting measure that has gotten action in the state Legislature is a $2 tax on rental cars to raise $10 million for police training, according to The Cape Cod Times. The governor signed it into law last summer.

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