Primary guide: Middlesex District Attorney

Here’s a look at the candidates on the Sept. 4 primary ballot, with biographies reported and compiled by Globe staff and correspondents. Candidates have also filled out a brief survey at our request.

Middlesex County District Attorney

The district attorney is the top law enforcement official in the county and chief prosecutor, determining which criminal cases will be pursued and how.

Candidates:

Democratic Primary Ballot

Marian Ryan.
Marian Ryan.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Marian Ryan

Ryan, a Belmont resident, has been the district attorney in Middlesex since 2013, when Governor Deval Patrick appointed her to replace Gerard T. Leone Jr., who left to go into private practice. She was elected to the post in 2014. Before her appointment, Ryan, 63, had worked as a prosecutor in Middlesex for 34 years, arguing appellate cases and prosecuting crimes in district and superior court.

What’s the most pressing issue facing Middlesex County, and how, as DA, would you address it? Ensuring that the criminal justice system is both fair and perceived as fair. Since becoming DA in 2013, I have been taking bold and principled stands to that end. As a career prosecutor, I am uniquely positioned to continue leading the efforts to persuade those who are reluctant to embrace reform.

Advertisement

It’s the start of a new year. What’s the first major change, if any, do you want to make in office? Having been the victim of gun violence, I will play an even greater role in ensuring that the Commonwealth continues to lead the nation in having the most effective regulatory apparatus to confront gun violence. Specifically, I want to expand upon our existing workplace safety initiatives.

Experienced prosecutors continue to leave the Middlesex County DA’s office. Why do you think that is, and how would you solve the problem of turnover? Middlesex County has a long legacy of aggressively recruiting the most talented legal minds who are interested in serving as prosecutors. A by-product of this strategy is that there will always be a certain level of attrition because these individuals have many attractive exit opportunities.

What are the top two ways you differ from your opponent? I have a proven track record of having publicly fought for systemic criminal justice reform and in making internal progressive policy changes. Also, I have developed deep relationships with the critical stakeholders in our county. These partnerships will be essential to further substantive reform.

What’s your favorite legal movie?

“The Verdict”

Donna Patalano.
Donna Patalano.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Donna Patalano

Patalano, a Winchester resident, started out in health care management and did not go to law school until she was in her 30s. After clerking for Justice Elspeth Cypher in the Massachusetts Appeals Court, she joined the Suffolk District Attorney’s office in 2002 to work as a prosecutor. She left in 2006 to do defense work before returning to Suffolk in 2011 and stayed until 2017. Patalano, 53, left the office in October 2017 to challenge Marian Ryan for Middlesex district attorney.

Advertisement

What’s the most pressing issue facing Middlesex County, and how, as DA, would you address it? Racial injustice. We incarcerate black men at eight times, and Latino men at five times, the rate of white men. As DA, I will collect and release data so the public can hold me accountable so that our system is both equitable and effective. This transparency simply doesn’t exist now.

It’s the start of a new year. What’s the first major change, if any, you want to make in office? Real reform of cash bail. Under my opponent, people jailed before they get their day in court has doubled. We must stop jailing people because they’re poor and can’t afford bail. My office will have a presumption against bail. ADAs will tell judges the incarceration cost along with the bail amount.

Experienced prosecutors continue to leave the Middlesex County DA’s office. Why do you think that is, and how would you solve the problem of turnover? This is a failure of leadership. More ADAs leave Middlesex than any other [Massachusetts] DA office. My opponent announced a new bail policy but the policy and the press release were identical. ADAs received no training. As DA, I will lead a supportive, collaborative office in pursuit of our common goal: justice.

Get Today in Politics in your inbox:
A digest of the top political stories from the Globe, sent to your inbox Monday-Friday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

How are you different from your opponent? Give us the top two reasons. Experience and vision. I’ve worked as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. The SJC appointed me chair of the BBO to oversee the ethics and integrity of attorneys. I will shine a bright light on our courtrooms in a way my opponent has not and will not. Real reform requires this transformative transparency.

What’s your favorite legal movie? “My Cousin Vinny” (although I love “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Presumed Innocent” too!)

Advertisement

There are no Republican candidates in this race.

CORRECTION: Due to incorrect information provided to the Globe, Patalano’s reply on the incarceration of black, Latino and white men has been updated to reflect those discrepancies as a rate.

An asterisk (*) notes campaign representatives said they filled out the survey questions on behalf of the candidates.

The Globe’s primary guide was written by Globe correspondents Matt Stout, Marek Mazurek, Sophia Eppolito, and Jamie Halper, as well as Joshua Miller, Maria Cramer, Michael Levenson, Milton J. Valencia and Stephanie Ebbert of the Globe staff.

It was compiled and edited by Shira Center, and produced by Christina Prignano.

Related