Boston Police Denies Right to Counsel
Boston Police Denies Right to Counsel to Community Group Concerned About Disappeared Latina
January 26, 2023
Since the disappearance of Reina Carolina Morales Rojas, Latinos Unidos en Massachusetts (LUMA) has been urging law enforcement officials to investigate the matter with immediacy. Reina has been missing since November 26, 2022, but the Boston Police Department (BPD) did not go public with the search until January 12.
LUMA has been leading impressive community outreach and public awareness efforts surrounding Reina’s disappearance. Through sustained advocacy, LUMA secured a meeting with BPD. The meeting was scheduled to take place on January 25 at 2 PM.
In anticipation of the meeting, LUMA requested free legal assistance from Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR).
At the meeting, BPD refused to allow LCR’s participation and threatened to cancel the meeting if LUMA insisted on having counsel present. LCR attorneys Myraida Melendez and Mirian Albert were shut-out. BPD banned LCR.
BPD’s actions constitute a flagrant violation of one of the most fundamental legal protections: the right to counsel. The right to counsel is sacred, particularly in interactions with law enforcement.
In Boston, distrust of BPD is common in communities of color and immigrant communities, where tensions have been heightened since the police shooting of Terrence Coleman, an unarmed Black man. Litigation surrounding Terrence’s death remains unresolved. In East Boston, Reina’s community, women of color are also experiencing hate crimes that go uninvestigated and unaddressed.
“Impunity surrounding Reina’s disappearance is deeply concerning, especially for Latinas, many of whom are fleeing femicide and violence against women in Central America,” said Lucy Pineda, the Executive Director of LUMA.
BPD stripped LUMA of its rights and thwarted LCR’s life-changing mission. It compromised the integrity of Reina’s investigation and eroded public confidence in the process.
In light of BPD’s constitutional infringement and breach of community trust, LCR has been actively communicating with Mayor Michelle Wu and the City of Boston. LCR immediately reported the unlawful police conduct, and raised concerns surrounding the alarming lack of transparency. Mayor Wu has been closely monitoring the situation. At this time, the parties have agreed to a reset, including a new meeting between BPD and LUMA – with counsel from LCR present – to move forward the investigation of Reina’s disappearance leveraging all available community resources and support.
“Many immigrants live with the legacy of disappearances and police violence. BPD’s resistance to transparency and community accountability compounds this trauma. LUMA and LCR are grateful for Mayor Wu’s leadership and immediate response, and for the opportunity to move forward with Reina’s investigation with the City of Boston and BPD,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of LCR.
More information about Reina’s case is available here.
Learn more about unresolved racial justice and civil rights issues in Boston.