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Report Finds Disparities In Mass. Drunken Driving Case Outcomes

BOSTON — A year-long study (PDF) of drunken driving cases in Massachusetts recommends that the court system find ways to reduce opportunities for defendants to go “shopping” for a judge who may be more likely to acquit them.

The report was conducted by an attorney appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court after The Boston Globe last year published a series of stories that found certain judges had high rates of acquittals for accused drunken drivers.

The study by attorney Jack Cinquegrana found that judges in some courts, particularly in Worcester County, acquit nearly all defendants who chose to have a judge, rather than a jury, decide their cases.

The report, which documented 57,000 cases across Massachusetts from 2008-2011, said the near-100 percent acquittal rates in some courts, compared with the dearth of waivers in other courts, “raises concerns about the equal administration of law.”

“Defendants are indeed having different experiences at these courts, and that’s something that ought to be addressed,” Cinquegrana told WBUR Thursday.

The report said nothing suggests judicial misconduct.

But it said the high acquittal rates in certain courts “creates an appearance of leniency.”

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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