For Immediate Release - February 26, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Representative Eugene O'Flaherty, and State Senators Joan Menard and Bruce Tarr Announce Legislation To Update the Current Manslaughter Statute

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BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Representative Eugene L. O'Flaherty, and State Senator Joan Menard, today announced legislation to update the current manslaughter statute by increasing the penalty for corporations charged with manslaughter. Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), also attended today's announcement and expressed support for a change to the current manslaughter statute. The legislation updates M.G.L. Chapter 265, Section 13 by increasing the maximum penalty for corporations convicted of manslaughter from $1,000 to $250,000. The manslaughter statute was first enacted in 1784.

"In recent years, our office has charged corporations with manslaughter. While no monetary sum can compensate for the loss of a human life, it has been frustrating for prosecutors, and more importantly, for those who have lost a loved one, to face the reality that when a corporation is convicted of the serious crime of manslaughter, the penalty is hopelessly outdated," Attorney General Coakley said. "Nearly 200 years after this statute was first enacted, we believe the time has come to update the law with a more appropriate penalty for what is a very serious crime. I appreciate Representative O'Flaherty's and Senator Menard's leadership on this important issue, and I look forward to working with them and other members of the Legislature to make this important change to our laws."

"This proposed legislation will enhance our Commonwealth's ability to retrieve an appropriate fine from corporations that engage in criminal conduct which rises to manslaughter. Attorney General Coakley has been relentless on behalf of the Commonwealth in pursuing those who engage in such conduct and has brought to our attention the need to enhance the manslaughter statute by increasing the fine associated with such activity. I am looking forward to working with Attorney General Coakley and my colleagues in the Legislature to pass this bill which will strengthen the Commonwealth's ability to hold corporations deemed criminally responsible for manslaughter to pay a substantially increased fine for such culpability," said Representative Eugene L. O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea).

"This legislation makes a common-sense change to the manslaughter statute to ensure that corporations convicted in a court of law are held accountable in a meaningful way. Victims of manslaughter perpetrated by corporations deserve better, and this bill reflects that belief. I look forward to working with Attorney General Coakley, Representative O'Flaherty and my fellow legislators to bring about this needed update to the law," said Senator Joan Menard (D-Fall River).

Since taking office in January 2007, Attorney General Coakley has brought cases involving charges of manslaughter against a corporation. In June 2007, following an investigation by the Attorney General's Office, a national nursing home corporation was indicted by a Middlesex Grand Jury in connection with the 2004 death of an elderly patient in its care. Life Care Centers of America, Inc., the Tennessee corporation that owns and operates the Life Care Center of Acton, was charged with manslaughter, abuse and neglect of a long-term care facility resident, and making a Medicaid false claim in connection with the death of Julia McCauley, age 74. That case is still pending.

In August 2007, as the result of an extensive investigation conducted by the Attorney General's Office, Powers Fasteners, Inc. (Powers), the Brewster, NY-based company that marketed and distributed the epoxy anchor bolt system used in portions of the I-90 Connector Tunnel, was indicted in connection with the July 10, 2006, ceiling panel collapse that killed Milena Del Valle, age 38, of Jamaica Plain. A Suffolk Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Powers with one count of involuntary manslaughter. The case against Powers was resolved in December 2008. Any changes to the law would not be retroactive and therefore not apply to these cases.


Press Conference Photos

Attorney General Coakley, Senator Menard, Senator Tarr

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Attorney General Coakley addresses the media as Senator Menard and Senator Tarr look on.

Rep. O'Flaherty addresses the media.

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Representative O'Flaherty discusses the proposed legislation. Also pictured: Attorney General Coakley, Senator Menard, Senator Tarr.

AG Coakley addresses the media.

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Attorney General Coakley discusses the proposed manslaughter legislation. Also pictured: Representative O'Flaherty, Senator Menard, Senator Tarr.

Press Conference Audio and Transcript

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Press Conference Video