Prosecution & Specialized Units
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office prioritizes the timely and aggressive prosecution of those who have done significant harm to our community, including homicide, rape, child abuse, and major drug trafficking. District Attorney Timothy Shugrue is committed to reducing an inherited backlog of pending cases and to the goal of accelerating the resolution of new cases to within one year of indictment. At any given time there are more than 150 cases pending. The Berkshire County Superior Court has jurisdiction over all cases, however the Superior Court prosecution team generally looks to this court to indict cases that are likely to lead to a state prison sentence, including first degree murder. The Superior Court team houses the District Attorney’s Special Victim’s and Child Abuse Units (see below). First Assistant District Attorney, Marianne Shelvey oversees the Superior Court team.
Special Victims Unit
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office is committed to investigating and prosecuting crimes against vulnerable populations in our community. These prosecutions – which typically involve sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking, elder abuse, and abuse of disabled persons – require a highly collaborative team approach administered by specially trained professionals. The Special Victims Unit is responsible working jointly with law enforcement investigations on these often-complex crimes, and bringing resulting cases to trial. Supporting victims is another key aspect of the SVU’s mission. The unit now includes a domestic violence coordinator and a Spanish-speaking victims advocate. If you are the victim or witness of a violent crime, we have compiled helpful resources for you here.
Child Abuse Unit
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office is dedicated to protecting our community’s children from abuse and neglect. The Child Abuse Unit’s critically important work is focused on holding abusers accountable by providing justice for our community’s most vulnerable victims. It is a victim-centered unit that seeks to protect children from abuse and provide support for them and their families throughout the investigative and courts process. The unit follows the most current best practices, which includes a multi-disciplinary approach and mindfulness of trauma reduction wherever possible. If you are in need of resources regarding child abuse, please visit here.
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office believes that public safety is best-served by accessing actual risk and implementing a public health model when appropriate. This approach to prosecution is grounded in copious research and data. The District Court team has implemented a vertical prosecution model, where the same prosecutor is assigned to a case from start to finish – because it is more effective and provides continuity for victims. The District Courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors and felonies that could lead to sentences of up to 2.5 years and which are served locally at the Berkshire County House of Correction. At any given time there are more than 1,500 cases pending. Second Assistant District Attorney, Kelly Kemp leads district court prosecutions and oversees the Juvenile Justice Unit (below).
Juvenile Justice Unit
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office believes that juvenile diversion programs are a powerful means of correcting errant behavior. The Juvenile Justice Unit is designed to individually screen juveniles prior to arraignment, separating those who will necessarily proceed to juvenile court from those who can better benefit from community service. The goal is to protect struggling youth from a permanent court record and to get them back on track through the use of evidence-based therapeutic alternatives that emphasize accountability and restitution. The Unit – comprised of a prosecutor, victim advocate, and diversion coordinator – collaborates with law enforcement, the public defender’s office, and thirty community-based local nonprofits. For more information about the District Attorney’s Juvenile Justice initiatives, please visit here.
The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office is committed to conviction integrity and conducts candid and objective reviews of decisions by the court and post-conviction cases to ensure that justice has been properly served. A defendant has the right to contest a conviction in the Massachusetts Appellate Court, Supreme Judicial Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States. The Appeals Unit carefully reviews these requests to ensure the defendant received a fair trial and disposition. The Office is determined to uphold just verdicts while overturning wrongful convictions. This is important to maintaining a high-level of prosecutorial practice, fair conditions, and as a tool to right wrongs of the past. The Appellate Court has the authority to overturn convictions, order new trials, reduce verdicts, or uphold a previous court decision.