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Review Says Judges Followed Protocol In Zambrano Cases

     A review has found no fault with the Massachusetts State Court system’s handling of several criminal cases involving the man who allegedly shot and killed a police officer in Auburn last month.

    The report by Paul Dawley, Chief Justice of the state’s district court, found that decisions by judges in the criminal cases of Jorge Zambrano were all made in accordance with the law.  The report, issued Monday, also found no fault with the state’s probation department. 

    The report, however, called for a reevaluation of how cases involving “ high-risk” offenders are handled.

   Police say Zambrano shot and killed Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino during a May 22 traffic stop in the central Massachusetts town.  Zambrano was shot and killed by police later in the day after a massive manhunt.  

  When news reports revealed Zambrano’s lengthy criminal history, some questioned why he was not in jail.   Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said Zambrano’s history with the courts raised a number of issues.

" I think this is an opportunity for us, the outgrowth of a tragedy no question, to review and evaluate the current procedures in the criminal justice system," Gulluni said last month.

Released in 2013 from state prison after serving seven years for cocaine trafficking, the 35-year-old had six subsequent arrests, including one for assaulting a Worcester police officer in January. He was back in front of a judge in February for a domestic assault and, over the objection of the prosecutor from the Worcester District Attorney’s office, freed on $500 bail.

Gulluni and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno have called on the state legislature to pass a bail-reform law.  They propose allowing prosecutors to appeal bail decisions.  Current law allows defendants to appeal in an effort to lower the bail set by a District Court Judge, but prosecutors can not appeal bail decisions to a higher court.

" No one is infallible," said Gulluni.  "We want to have the opportunity in situations where public safety is at risk to have a second set of eyes look at a matter where bail is at stake."

Sarno said the accounts of Zambrano’s criminal history, including several violent confrontations with police, were “chilling.”

The proposed legislation was filed in the House last October by Democratic State Representatives Angelo Puppolo of Springfield and Michael Finn of West Springfield.

"We worked very hard with District Attorney Gulluni and the legislature to craft legislation that would not take away defendant's rights whatsoever," said Sarno. " We are looking to have an even playing field."

   Springfield Police Deputy Chief William Cochrane said the proposed bail-reform law would support the work of police.

  "It is frustrating for the officers to make a good arrest and then later they  are chasing that same individual in a stolen car, or they are dealing in gang activity. It is so frustrating."

   The bail-reform bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee waiting to be reported out.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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