Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Judge with Morals, a Target of a Corrupt State Police

Ex-Chief Justice Speziale Dies

January 4, 2005 By EDMUND H. MAHONY, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

John A. Speziale, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court and architect of a sweeping reorganization credited with modernizing the state court system, died of cancer at his home in Torrington Monday. He was 82.

Speziale had a 50-year career in public service and was one of the few Connecticut citizens who worked in all three branches of state government. Beside holding a variety of judicial appointments, he was a clerk for the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee in 1949 and was elected state treasurer in 1958.

But it was his work as a jurist and court administrator for which Speziale is best remembered. In addition to unifying the state court system in 1978 and pushing for creation of a state appellate court, Speziale set in motion the series of legal events that led to the exoneration of Peter A. Reilly in 1977 in one of the most notorious murder cases in state history.

Reilly, it was later proven, was wrongfully convicted of killing his mother, Barbara Gibbons.Reilly's exoneration touched off nearly a decade of bitter recrimination between members of the judiciary and senior figures in the Connecticut state police.

Police persisted in asserting, despite contradictory evidence, that Reilly, then a skinny 18-year-old, slashed his mother's throat and ran her over with a car at their home in Canaan in 1973. The case gave rise to two books and a television movie.

As a judge of the state Superior Court in the early 1970s, Speziale presided over the trial that resulted in Reilly's manslaughter conviction. Reilly confessed to killing his mother, but the evidence suggested he confessed to a crime he didn't commit after a prolonged and psychologically traumatic interrogation.

Acknowledging evidence that Reilly was elsewhere when his mother died, Speziale took the highly unusual step of setting aside the guilty verdict and ordering a new trial. A year later, Speziale appointed a fellow state judge to act as a one-man grand juror and investigate possible crimes associated with Reilly's arrest and prosecution.

The grand juror's report amounted to a scathing indictment of the state police investigation of Gibbons' murder.

Detectives were accused of ignoring evidence that pointed away from Reilly.

"Justice Speziale showed great leadership and courage in his handling of the Peter Reilly case by setting aside the verdict," long-time Hartford defense lawyer Hubert Santos said.

Said Austin J. McGuigan, a former prosecutor: "He did what he believed to be the right thing, regardless of the consequences."

The consequences continued for years.

Prosecutors ultimately decided not to retry Reilly. Judicial figures associated with Reilly's exoneration - in particular, Speziale - continued to be the subjects of attacks by some in the state police for years. In fact, many observers of the state court system believe that weariness over continuing recriminations contributed to Speziale's decision to retire from public life in 1984, stepping down as the state's Chief Justice and returning to the private practice of law.

Although the Reilly case could fill boxes with headlines, it amounted to a relatively small moment in Speziale's long career.

In the mid-1970s, he served as the chief administrator of the state court system and pushed through a radical redesign of the judicial department, merging what were then the state's Common Pleas and Superior courts and establishing the foundation for the state's intermediate Appellate Court. At a time when litigation was exploding and backlogs in the court system were lengthening, Connecticut under Speziale became a national model for how to expedite case flow.

Speziale also established a program in which senior lawyers acted as mediators, helping to resolve cases outside the court system.

"That program was the first of many that have been spawned by it nationally," said retired state Judge Aaron Ment, whom Speziale appointed as chief court administrator in 1984.

"It really was the beginning of the process of having the court manage its caseload, as opposed to just having the cases manage themselves and litigants wait for years and years until cases got heard. It was the beginning of a process that is now accepted nationally. He was among the leaders nationally."

Speziale also emphasized the appointment of women to judicial positions during the 1970s, a time when women were beginning to move from about 10 percent of law school classes to about half. In the early 1970s, when judges still appointed prosecutors under a now-amended process, Speziale appointed the state's first female prosecutor, Anne C. Dranginis, now a judge on the state Appellate Court.

"He went forward with innovative programs and reforms," Dranginis said.

"We had a legal tradition that was pretty ancient. He wasn't afraid to look at that and ask, `What do we need to do to improve this?' I think that because he had been in the legislature and because he had been state treasurer, he had much more of a world view about how this third branch of government had to function within the balance of powers. That was his interest and his strength and that was a job he did well."

Connecticut Chief Justice William J. Sullivan said: "For over 50 years he was an outstanding lawyer and jurist who brought great honor and respect to the legal profession. People of Justice Speziale's stature are irreplaceable."

Said Chief Court Administrator Joseph H. Pellegrino: "He was both a scholar and skilled administrator. The entire judicial branch has benefited from his guidance and leadership. He will be sorely missed."

Speziale was born in Winsted (Connecticut) in 1922, the son of Sicilian immigrants. He graduated from Duke University and its law school. He served with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II as a lieutenant, junior grade.

After the war, Speziale served, alternately, as a municipal court judge in Torrington, an attorney for the federal Office of Price Stabilization and city attorney for Torrington.

He was elected state treasurer in 1958, running on the campaign slogan, "Don't dilly dally. Vote for Speziale."

In 1961, nominated by Gov. John Dempsey, Speziale was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas. He was elevated to the Superior Court in 1965. He was appointed both chief judge of the Superior Court and chief court administrator in 1975.

Gov. Ella T. Grasso named Speziale to the state Supreme Court in 1977.

Gov. William A. O'Neill appointed him chief justice in 1981.

Speziale and his wife, Mary, had two children.

There will be a viewing today from 6 to 9 p.m. at the LaPorta-Cook Funeral Home in Torrington. There will be a funeral Wednesday at 9 a.m. at St. Peter's Church in Torrington.

The above came from the Hartford Courant website.

Fair use of copyrighted material

* * * *

My email to incoming Gov. Rell of Connecticut regarding Rowland and corruption

Telling your Attorney to go fuck himself- PRICELESS

A Justice System really has to be corrupt and out of hand for something to actually change

The Death of Shame in America
(O'Reilly of the O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, asks Gov. John G. Rowland to resign Dec. 2003)

* * * *

Can cops rape, rob, beat, and murder with immunity?
(post contains pictures of young adults brutalized by police, and picture of a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette and one of the houses I fixed up from a boarded up condition)

Are their unnamed factions in the US, similar to the KKK?

With rogue judges and their minions, police officers, do we really live in a Democracy? (post)

This blogger's email: stevengerickson@yahoo.com

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