Just before Thanksgiving Massachusetts Police set up a sobriety checkpoint in North Andover, Massachusetts. According to many reports Kenneth Howe, a forty five year old father of three was a passenger in a car being driven by a friend. The car was pulled over at the sobriety checkpoint. Howe might have had a marijuana cigarette in his possession that he was trying to extinguish. When asked to get out of the car he jumped out of a window, supposedly struck an officer and attempted to run away. He was quickly apprehended. Other reports suggest that Howe was dragged out of the car by a female trooper who claimed that Howe had assaulted her. A friend of Howe’s who was present at the time stated that up to twenty police officers descended on Howe. The lawyer for Howe’s family, Frances King commented that the “police acted like savage beasts” and that a witness overheard officers stating it was a “good thing we had flashlights”. Howe was taken to the police barracks in Andover where he collapsed during booking. He was taken to the Lawrence General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Almost every time I have a client who has been charged with Assault and Battery on a Police Officer the client comes into my office looking pretty beat up. There is no secret in Massachusetts Criminal Legal circles that this charge is filed anytime the police get overly aggressive with a suspect. Defense attorneys, judges and prosecutors know this and often the result of the case; i.e. a dismissal of this charge reflects this sentiment. The best thing defense attorneys can do in a case like this is go to the crime scene and look around for surveillance cameras. Post 9-11 many businesses and government structures such as schools, highways, bridges and even police vehicles have installed videotaping equipment to monitor suspicious activity. In this case, if there is video evidence of this incident I have no doubt that Attorney King will find it. She is an excellent attorney who knows firsthand how law enforcement officers operate.
I am more curious to see how the Essex County District Attorney’s Office handles this case. If Attorney King’s witnesses’ account of this event is accurate, what will Mr. Blodgett do? Twenty or even ten police officers beating a man to death at a sobriety checkpoint is nothing short of murder. How can these actions be justified? How injured was the female trooper? Did she go to the hospital? The law on self-defense in Massachusetts is clear. You can use no more force than is necessary to defend yourself. Was it necessary to use force sufficient to kill Howe? And would it not make more sense for an independent agency to investigate this case? After all, Mr. Blodgett’s office prosecutes cases that many of these officers have investigated. If ten or twenty civilians went to the aid of a female friend or colleague who claimed to have been struck by a stranger and beat him to death you can be assured that Mr. Blogdett would respond with indictments. One thing you can be sure of. If Jonathan Blodgett does not properly investigate this case, Frances King will.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman defends people accused of committing crimes in Massachusetts and throughout the country. Attorney Neyman has defended police officers accused of very serious crimes in both state and federal courts. Call us at 617-263-6800 to discuss your case or contact us online.