(April 5, 2022 — Berkshire County, Massachusetts) District Legal professional Andrea Harrington in the present day agreed that Barry Jacobson was wrongfully convicted of arson in a biased 1983 trial, throughout which jurors made antisemitic remarks about Mr. Jacobson, who’s Jewish. Accordingly, his conviction was vacated and the case in opposition to him was dismissed.
District Legal professional Harrington mentioned: “Prosecutors have a authorized, moral and ethical obligation to make sure that jury verdicts are rendered free from bias. The credible proof of antisemitic juror statements undermine the equity of this verdict and denied Mr. Jacobson his Sixth Modification proper to an neutral jury trial. Prosecutors have the accountability to implement insurance policies to make sure honest convictions and to rectify previous injustice. I’m proud to face with the Anti-Defamation League and the Innocence Undertaking as a result of a conviction that’s tainted by bias erodes the integrity of our system of justice.”
“Almost 40 years in the past, I used to be wrongfully convicted for a criminal offense I didn’t commit. Antisemitism contaminated the prosecution and the jury deliberations. I’m grateful that District Legal professional Andrea Harrington acknowledged this injustice and helped my lawyer Bob Cordy, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Innocence Undertaking lastly clear my identify,” mentioned Barry Jacobson. “This wrongful conviction has solid a painful shadow over my life. I’m grateful to God, household, and associates. The evils of antisemitism and racism in our authorized system should be fought relentlessly.”
Mr. Jacobson was convicted of arson in 1983 and sentenced to 6 months in jail and a $10,000 advantageous, after a deck on his household’s trip house in Richmond, Mass. was set on hearth. He spent greater than a month in jail for a criminal offense he didn’t commit, primarily based on unreliable arson proof and a baseless declare that he was trying to make insurance coverage cash on the house — though no declare was ever filed.
Following the jury verdict, proof of antisemitic bias on the jury started to floor. Sworn statements from a sitting juror and an alternate juror had been filed with the courtroom. In her sworn assertion, the sitting juror suggested the courtroom that, “From the start of our deliberations, the forelady of the jury …. repeatedly made references to Mr. Jacobson as being ‘a kind of New York Jews who suppose they’ll come up right here and get away with something.’”
The alternate juror additionally noticed: “[W]hen the jury first went out to deliberate that they had solely been in there, I’d say lower than 5 minutes, once I overheard one of many girls say to the opposite, ‘Nicely, this isn’t going to take very lengthy. We should always end this actual fast as a result of he’s responsible.’ And says, ‘All these wealthy, New York Jews come up right here and suppose they’ll do something and get away with it.’”
Moreover, famend hearth science knowledgeable John Lentini, a number one knowledgeable within the discipline of arson investigation, supplied an affidavit that the chain of custody procedures utilized by the state cops within the case rendered the important thing proof of arson unreliable. The investigating state cops testified at trial that they squeezed liquid right into a vial from one of many carpet samples that they had minimize out and believed to be the purpose of origin of the fireplace. Nonetheless, the carpet samples that had been obtained by the troopers on the scene on Jan. 29, 1982, from the alleged level of origin, had been promptly delivered to the state laboratory and examined. No flammable residue, gasoline or in any other case, was detected on any of the samples. It wasn’t till a 12 months after the fireplace, days earlier than the grand jury heard the case on Feb. 10, 1983, that this “unsealed” vial was “discovered” in one of many trooper’s lockers and delivered to the state laboratory for testing, the place it examined optimistic for gasoline residue. In his affidavit, Dr. Lentini mentioned, “In my 47 years of practising within the forensic sciences, I’ve seen many errors, however none so egregious as this with respect to the mishandling of the proof and the failure to correctly doc the chain of custody.”
“As studies of antisemitism improve across the nation, Mr. Jacobson’s case reminds us that the legal authorized system has by no means been immune from its pernicious and insidious results,” mentioned Barry Scheck, Mr. Jacobson’s counsel and Innocence Undertaking co-founder. “We applaud D.A. Harrington for recognizing that the antisemitism Mr. Jacobson confronted 40 years in the past was an element that led to his wrongful conviction.”
Rising Instances of Antisemitism
In accordance with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), antisemitic incidents are at historic highs throughout the nation. ADL’s most up-to-date Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in the USA recorded greater than 2,000 antisemitic acts of assault, vandalism, and harassment in 2020. This was the third-highest 12 months on file since ADL started monitoring in 1979.
“The antisemitic bias that was openly displayed on this case defies a primary precept of our authorized system that the ‘regulation punishes folks for what they do, not who they’re.’ Whereas this injustice occurred within the Nineteen Eighties, antisemitism continues to at the present time, each hidden and in plain view. Day-after-day we witness antisemitism impacting day by day life, within the public sq., office, faculty campuses, youth sports activities, and our legal justice system is not any exception,” mentioned Robert Trestan, regional director of ADL New England, which filed an amicus brief relating to antisemitic juror bias. “Within the 40 years since his wrongful conviction, Barry Jacobson labored tirelessly to clear his identify and expose the antisemitism that contributed to this miscarriage of justice. This case is a vivid reminder of the hazard posed by antisemitism and the necessity for higher schooling efforts in any respect ranges.”
Combating for Justice
From 1987 to 2002, Mr. Jacobson filed 4 petitions for pardon aid. On the hearings on every one among these petitions, Mr. Jacobson maintained his innocence despite the fact that he was repeatedly suggested by members of the Board of Pardons that though he certified for pardon aid, his failure to confess guilt disqualified him for aid.
In January 2022, District Legal professional Harrington decided that the overwhelming proof of antisemitism in jury deliberations so severely undermined the trial that justice required that the Commonwealth assent to Jacobson’s movement for a brand new trial and subsequently dismiss the indictment, ending any additional prosecution of the case.
“This ends a decades-long battle for Mr. Jacobson, who has at all times maintained his innocence,” mentioned Robert Cordy, of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, co-counsel for Mr. Jacobson, whom he started representing within the Nineties. “It’s unacceptable for racial and ethnic bias to taint jury choice, and juries ought to be educated about each specific and implicit bias.”
The Innocence Undertaking (Susan Friedman and Barry Scheck) with co-counsel McDermott Will & Emery LLP (Robert Cordy) signify Mr. Jacobson.