Capeless Drops Bernard Baran Case

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Bernard Baran, who has spent more than half his life in prison, will not face a second trial.

Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless announced Tuesday morning that he will not bring a criminal case against Baran, saying "the passage of 24 years has done more to damage any further prosecution of the case than anything that happened back then."

Baran was 19 when he was accused in 1984 of molesting five children at the Early Childhood Development Center where he worked. A year later, he was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences during a period when child-abuse hysteria seemed to be sweeping the nation.

Supporters said the conviction was a miscarriage of justice, calling into question evidence, testimony, the capability of the defense counsel and discrimination against Baran, who was opening gay.

The Superior Court agreed on a number of counts and determined in 2006 that Baran deserved a new trial; the Appeals Court upheld that finding last month. The decisions can be found on a Baran advocate's Web site.

While acknowledging "there were mistakes made" in the prosecution of the case, Capeless, after speaking with the alleged victims, believed the jurors 24 years ago "delivered the correct verdict."

"Up to now, this matter has been all about Bernard Baran," he said. "Today, it is about the victims: their courage then — as young children who testified in court; and, their continued courage now — as adults carrying on with their lives."

Baran was released on bail after the Superior Court ruling in 2006. The district attorney's decision not to pursue the case means he's free.

At a Tuesday morning press conference, Capeless gave the following statement:
 
"After careful consideration, I have decided to no longer prosecute the case against Bernard Baran. My decision is not based upon any judgment that Baran did not do what he was convicted of by a jury 24 years ago. In fact, I remain convinced that those 12 jurors delivered a correct verdict.
 
I acknowledge that there were mistakes made back in 1984 and 1985. But the passage of 24 years has done more to damage any further prosecution of the case than anything that happened back then. The damage that has occurred to the memories of witnesses, and the damage that will occur from bringing forth the remaining memories of the victims compel me to realize that going forward is not in the interests of justice
 
Since inheriting this case five years ago, I have tried to do fulfill my responsibilities as district attorney. I have carefully reviewed all the available material connected to the case. And I have made professional judgments that were in the interests of justice. Not necessarily to protect a conviction, but to do what I felt was right. 

Those decisions did lead me to pursue the available legal avenues to maintain the verdicts – in the Trial Court and the Appeals Court. That argument has not been successful, and I accept the decisions of the courts.
 
My decision today is made foremost in the best interests of the victims – each of them now a young adult.  Twenty-four years ago, the investigation and prosecution were undertaken for their benefit. What I do today, as best I can, is also for their benefit.
 
I have legitimate concerns about their ability to accurately recall events of 24 years ago. But I have an even greater concern for the damage those recollections might cause.
 
My conversations with them, during the past five years and most recently, have made clear to me that the pain they endured was real. For those who have been able to put the pain behind them, I do not want to bring it back. For those who could not put the pain behind them, I do not want to deepen the trauma.
 
Today my thoughts are with them, and I want to speak about them and for them. Up to now, this matter has been all about Bernard Baran. Today, it is about the victims: their courage then - as young children who testified in court; and, their continued courage now – as adults carrying on with their lives.
 
Each expressed concern for the welfare and the feelings of the others, and only reluctantly talked about his or herself. They all want to do what is best, and they each are in accord with my decision.
 
They each know that what happened to them 24 years ago was very real. They each also expressed an appreciation that the 20-plus years Baran spent in prison were just as real. For them, there has been a real measure of justice. Now, it is time to put this behind us."
 

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