MAY 30, 2018
Thomas Berry thought his son was safe.
Stephen Berry, 20, had been civilly committed to the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center for up to 90 days to get treatment for his opiate addiction. Two weeks later, he was released without notification to his family and suffered a fatal overdose on April 5, 2017.
On Wednesday, Thomas Berry, 52, of Pembroke fought back tears at the State House while testifying in favor of a bill that would require health providers to notify families of patients released early from their court-mandated treatment under the state’s Section 35 law.
Had he known his son was on the street, Berry said, he would have brought him to a facility in Falmouth to continue his treatment, which had been the original plan.
“My family was fighting hard for his recovery,” an emotional Berry told lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recovery. “Instead of recovery, he received only a train ticket” and money from his canteen at Bridgewater.
Under state law, addicts can be forced into in-patient treatment under Section 35 — at the request of relatives, police, or medical professionals — if a judge determines the person is at risk of serious harm.
Currently, the superintendent of the treatment facility must notify the judge in writing when a patient is released before the 90-day maximum term. The pending bill, sponsored by state Representative Josh S. Cutler, a Duxbury Democrat, would require that the person who had a patient civilly committed in the first place — often a close relative — be notified as well.
Cutler told the committee that the bill would close “a very important gap in the law.”
He said he doesn’t believe his bill would violate federal medical privacy laws because the patient’s civil commitment is publicly adjudicated in the courts, and the bill would merely require notification of release to the relative who initially sought the commitment.
Cutler was joined by Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, who also testified in favor of the bill. He said his office works daily to punish drug traffickers and help addicts get treatment.
“But every day, families wage their own less public and much more personal battles against addiction,” Cruz said. “The least we can do now is to show those people, who know their loved ones best, that they matter enough to notify them when their loved one is released, in order to be prepared to wage their battle anew.”
It’s unlikely that lawmakers will take significant action on the bill before the current legislative session ends.
But Representative Denise C. Garlick, the House chair of the committee, assured Berry that the proposal would be a priority for lawmakers.
Noting the scourge of opiate addiction that continues to ravage the state, Garlick said, “We have a great deal of work to do.”
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May 25, 2018
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer; in Marshfield, as boats begin to hit the water to have fun in the sun, town officials are encouraging safety and responsible operation of watercrafts.
On Friday, May 25, Marshfield F.A.C.T.S. unveiled a new banner the organization donated to the harbormaster’s office now on display at the town pier, urging boaters not to operate under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
“We have different issues in the summer than we do the rest of the year,” said F.A.C.T.S. co-chair Jen Cantwell. “We felt like impaired boating is not an issue that people are familiar with.”
Alcohol and drugs are involved in almost 50 percent of accidents on the water, and over 75 percent of vessel accidents have a human factor contributing to the cause. Given these statistics, Marshfield Harbormaster Mike Dimeo said it’s crucial that boaters operate responsibly.
“I think they’re out on the water and they forget about everything,” said Town Administrator Mike Maresco. “There’s a lot of focus now on drinking and driving but I don’t think that extends to drinking and boating.”
Cantwell said stressors while boating, like wind, sun and vibration can intensify the effects of alcohol, making the situation even more dangerous.
“It’s a beautiful place down here,” said Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz. “We’ve got great weather and we’re only just starting the summer, so this reminds everybody that there are still rules and regulations that we need to keep people safe. Alcohol and drugs should not be on the waterway. Everybody kind of thinks sometimes that there are no rules, that you can go out and do what you want, but there are and we need to keep people safe.”Read more
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May 17, 2018
An undocumented Brazilian immigrant who was convicted in the 2011 stabbing death of his girlfriend was seeking a new trial.
BOSTON — The state’s Supreme Judicial Court has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a Marshfield man serving a life sentence for the 2011 stabbing death of his on-again off-again girlfriend.
Marcelo Almeida, an undocumented immigrant from Brazil, was convicted in 2015 of murdering 24-year-old Patricia Frois in her Marshfield apartment complex three years earlier. In his appeal, Almeida argued that he deserved a new trial because the judge who oversaw his first one had given the jury bad instructions and had failed to reign in prosecutors when they mischaracterized evidence in their closing statements and presented evidence about Almeida’s history of fights with Frois, which he said prejudiced the jury against him.
In a decision issued Wednesday, the state’s highest court said the judge did nothing wrong in allowing the evidence about previous fights in which Almeida had threatened to kill and stab Frois because, the justices said, it established a pattern of hostility in the couple’s relationship and hinted at intent and motive for the murder. The justices also rejected Almeida’s claim that a conversation he had with a state trooper after he was arrested was mischaracterized. In the conversation, Almeida confessed to killing Frois.
Almeida, who was 45 when he was convicted, has long admitted to repeatedly stabbing Frois, his former girlfriend, after months of what prosecutors described as desperate attempts to get her to return to him. Instead, Almeida’s attorney argued at trial that the stabbing was an act of passion — ignited when Frois told him that she had seen other men — and amounted to manslaughter, which carries a lighter sentence than murder.
At the trial, prosecutors argued that Almeida’s confession with the trooper, in which he made no mention of Frois seeing other men, was proof of premeditation and grounds for conviction on first-degree murder. Almeida argued this was a mischaracterization of his words, but state supreme court justices disagreed.
“The prosecutor’s comments would not have created a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice,” the court stated in its decision. “The commonwealth presented overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s premeditation.”
In the days and weeks leading up to the stabbing, Almeida on multiple occasions told family and friends he wanted to kill Frois after she refused to move back in with him. One witness testified that Almeida said that what he was going to do to Frois, “not even his own mother would forgive.”
On Sept. 26, 2011, Almeida stabbed Frois 11 times in her Marshfield apartment building.
During the trial, prosecutors said Almeida told multiple people he planned to kill Frois “for love,” but didn’t tell any of them that he wanted her dead because she had sex with someone else. Prosecutors said Almeida only brought up that part of his story when it came time to defend himself against murder charges.
The court also ruled the judge’s instructions to the jury were sufficient.
District Attorney Timothy Cruz, whose office prosecuted the case, said he was pleased with the supreme judicial court’s decision.
“This was a particularly gruesome and senseless crime, and a family was broken by the loss of their sister and daughter,” Cruz said in a statement. “Today’s SJC decision will hopefully reinforce the fact that justice was done for the family of Patricia Frois and that family can now find some peace.”
May 17, 2018
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Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz went from an opioid conference at Bridgewater State University on Wednesday, to a man barricaded inside his Middleboro home, who had already fired a weapon at police.
Christine James caught up with the D.A. for more details:
May 17, 2018
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Governor Charlie Baker and other officials attended a conference held by the Plymouth County Drug Task Force at Bridgewater State University on Wednesday to discuss efforts being taken to battle the opioid epidemic.
Governor Baker has been tackling this uphill battle by increasing spending by 60% to implement new treatment programs and adding 1,100 treatment beds in the state resulting in a drop in overdose deaths.
“We are doing a lot of really good things, the reason we filed that second piece of legislation is because we need to do more. This is a relentless disease that has no feelings, it takes no prisoners,” said Gov. Baker.
Plymouth County District Attorney, Tim Cruz, praises the collaborative efforts between the nontraditional partners that are making resources available.
“I think this conference shows that there is hope out there, there has been a lot of progress and a lot of good people are working really hard,” said D.A. Tim Cruz.
Attacking from both sides, Fentanyl and Carfentanyl are now classified as a schedule one drug due to a bill that was passed and Massachusetts is one of the only states that requires drug prescribers to pass a course in opioid therapy and pain management.
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May 5, 2018
Area schools hold required forums to discourage drinking and drug use.
With area proms approaching, East and West Bridgewater schools are taking premptive measures to discourage underaged drinking.
On Monday night, officials at East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School held a substance abuse awareness event that was mandatory for any junior or senior attending the prom, while also requiring at least one parent to attend as well.
Students were shown the documentary “If They Had Known,” a film created by Winchester residents Geoff and Genny Soper, whose 19-year-old son Clay Soper died in 2015 after mixing alcohol and prescription drugs.
“This was a powerful documentary about the dangers of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol,” said East Bridgewater police Chief Scott Allen in a press release. “Some of the parents in the audience were wiping away tears. Making this mandatory for students attending prom is an important reminder that they can have fun on their special night, but must also be safe and responsible in doing so.”
“They spoke compellingly about the loss of their son as a result of mixing alcohol and medication,” said Principal Brian Duffey.
A second viewing of the documentary will be held on May 21 prior to the senior prom.
District Attorney Timothy Cruz also spoke to students and parents about the importance of understanding social host law, which states that supplying, giving or providing anyone under 21 years old with alcohol or allowing anyone under 21 years to consume alcohol is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to a year of imprisonment.
“We had a good turnout and everyone in attendance was certainly impacted by the gravity of the Soper’s story,” Duffey said. “We as a school community are committed to providing resources to our students that set them up for success, both in and out of the classroom.”Read more