Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard will go before the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) — the judicial office that brings disciplinary cases against lawyers in Massachusetts — next week, for three counts of alleged professional misconduct.
According to the 12-page Petition for Discipline, Ms. Marshard is under scrutiny for alleged misconduct in three criminal trials on Martha’s Vineyard. The three-count complaint submitted by the Office of General Counsel (OGC) to the BBO on Sept. 6, 2016, alleges that Ms. Marshard either failed to share critical information with defense lawyers or attempted to interfere with defense witnesses. Ms. Marshard has disputed the charges.
Count one alleges that Ms. Marshard withheld evidence from defense attorneys that could have absolved two men of charges stemming from a bar brawl at the Ritz Cafe in Oak Bluffs in March 2013. The defendants, Patrece Petersen and Darryl Baptiste, were indicted by a Dukes County grand jury on assault charges related to a fight with brothers Jason and Frank Cray. Mr. Petersen was also charged with attempted murder.
The defendants were acquitted of all charges in November 2014, following a dramatic trial that included charges of racial bias, contradictory witness testimony, and a finding by Judge Richard J. Chin of prosecutorial misconduct on the part of Ms. Marshard.
Defense attorneys Robert Moriarty and John Amabile successfully argued that Ms. Marshard had failed to turn over evidence that would confirm the defendants’ version of events, in particular a conversation Ms. Marshard had with former Ritz owner Christine Arenburg about two months after the incident. When defense attorneys questioned Ms. Arenburg at the trial, she said she told Ms. Marshard that “the Cray brothers were lying through their teeth,” and that “there was no fight at the Ritz and no knife at the Ritz,” according to the deposition. The defense argued that Ms. Arenburg’s statements should have been turned over to them, according to the rules of the court.
Defense attorneys also argued that Ms. Marshard’s repeated insistence that the judge advise defense witnesses of their rights amounted to a threat to prosecute the witnesses based on their testimony, and caused the witnesses to refuse to testify.
Judge Chin upbraided Ms. Marshard from the bench at the 2014 trial. According to court transcripts, he said her actions were part of a “‘win-at-all-costs’ strategy,” and were not consonant with the pursuit of justice. “This was not a momentary misstep, but a persistent course of conduct designed to prejudice the Defendant,” he said.
The complaint before the Board of Bar Overseers states that prosecuting attorneys are required to “make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigate the offense …”
Count two against Ms. Marshard stems from another assault case, this one from July 2014, involving Mr. Petersen, in a fight with Edgartown resident David Sylvia. Mr. Petersen was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, mayhem, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace. According to the complaint, Ms. Marshard “directed an Edgartown police detective [to] locate Sylvia and bring Sylvia to the courthouse library.” Ms. Marshard then met with Mr. Sylvia without his attorney present. Ms. Marshard later agreed she had met with Mr. Sylvia, but only to reassure him he would not be in trouble for his testimony.
In count three, the Office of General Counsel alleges that Ms. Marshard “failed to correct” false testimony made by State Police Sergeant Jeff Stone to a grand jury in a 2013 drug-trafficking investigation, where three off-Island men with lengthy criminal records were arrested on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs with almost 300 Percocet painkillers worth approximately $15,000.
District Attorney Michael O’Keefe told The Times he stands firmly behind Ms. Marshard. “I think Laura is looking forward to the opportunity to be heard,” he said.