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The Boston Globe



Courts, legislators can curb unwarranted OUI acquittals

Leniency in cases of drunken driving is baked into the Massachusetts judicial system, creating trouble on the roadways and in the courts. A recent report by a special counsel to the state Supreme Judicial Court offers straightforward steps to protect lives and restore public confidence.

Last year, the Globe Spotlight team documented dramatic discrepancies in the conviction rates of defendants who proceed to trial on charges of operating under the influence. Those who waived their right to a jury trial and opted instead for a judge frequently eluded justice even in the face of damning evidence. Now special counsel Jack Cinquegrana, a former state and federal prosecutor, has found a similar statistical pattern: From 2008 to 2011, juries acquitted 58 percent of the time in OUI cases, while judges found defendants not guilty 86 percent of the time.

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