Over the course of the long, contentious campaign for Berkshire District Attorney, many claims have been made about the record of Democratic primary winner Andrea Harrington. WAMC went digging.
At her October 16th press conference to endorse write-in candidate and incumbent DA Paul Caccaviello, Judy Knight — the third-place finisher in the close Democratic primary and formerly a critic of the DA — reiterated a frequent criticism of Harrington.
“With respect to what her background is, in terms of experience: she’s not been a criminal defense attorney for 15 years, I heard her say that a hundred times,” Knight said.
Since a Caccaviello campaign press release in early July, attacks on Harrington’s experience have flown from rival candidates. Caccaviello spoke with WAMC Thursday.
“That’s been a big issue that I’ve been encountering as I continue to talk to people and canvas, and people are — they really do want specifics on her resume,” said the DA.
At the press conference, Knight focused on a key part of Harrington’s resume, one that the Richmond-based attorney has mentioned often during the campaign.
“She was not reversing death penalty cases in Florida," said Knight. "She had an entry [level] — she tried to sort of buff it up so it looked like she had experience, but when you really looked at it, it really wasn’t there. To begin, she worked there for about a year and a half, this place in Florida. She had an entry level position. She worked on a couple of briefs along with other attorneys — she was never the lead attorney.”
The “place in Florida” is the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, an agency of the state of Florida.
“My office represents Florida’s indigent death row clients after they have been convicted of a crime and they have exhausted their initial appeals. So this office will represent them in what is called post-conviction appeals, and Andrea Harrington was one such attorney that represented Florida’s death row inmates — or indigent death row inmates — in those appeals. And those appeals would normally come from guilt-innocent issues or mitigating issues," said Paul Norton, the administrative services director for the law office of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel.
While a resume provided to WAMC by Harrington overstated her time at the office by a year, the office confirmed she worked there from 2004 to 2006.
Harrington explained what she described as “a small discrepancy that [she] has corrected” by claiming that her work with death row cases had continued after leaving Florida.
“When I moved back to Massachusetts, I continued to do contract work for an attorney that I had worked with,” she told WAMC.
Norton explained what kind of attorney work Harrington would have done on post-conviction death row appeals.
“What Mrs. Harrington would be looking for, is there any Guilt-Innocence that the public defender or the initial attorney might have missed on, and if not, is there also mitigating circumstances that can be mitigated from a capital crime to something less than a capital crime,” he said.
She and attorneys like her would have sought lesser sentences, like life in prison.
Norton said the Counsel’s teams would have two attorneys, one designated lead attorney, and at least one investigator. He said that while Harrington was qualified to take the lead position, she didn’t serve as one while at the Counsel.
“Because some of the cases that she was — was here in the office were already assigned to a lead attorney and then she would become what they call a second chair,” he told WAMC.
Norton estimated the office would have handled around 70 clients at the time of Harrington’s employment.
“She would have had at least a minimum of about seven or eight cases,” said Norton.
For her part, Harrington says she stands by her experience.
“I don’t need to exaggerate any of the work that I’ve done," she said to WAMC. "I am what I say I am.”
Election day is Nov. 6th.