Mass. Supreme Court Hears Appeals On Holyoke Soldiers' Home Case

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Criminal charges for two former heads of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home were the subject of debate for officials in the state's top court on Wednesday.

Assistant Attorney General Anna Lumelsky argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that the former superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, Bennett Walsh, and former medical director David Clinton should face criminal charges for their decision at the start of the pandemic to merge two units of veterans— increasing the likelihood of COVID-19 infections and harm to those veterans.

Both Clinton and Walsh were each indicted on five counts of elder neglect, but a judge dismissed those indictments. Lumelsky represented the Commonwealth, which made an appeal before the SJC to have those charges reinstated.

"It was a death trap, it was mayhem, disarray, confusion that the number of beds didn't match the number of outlets so they couldn't plug in the beds. One nurse said it was an image she would never forget," Lumelsky said.

Defense attorneys countered saying that their decision did not up the chances of COVID-19 infection because the veterans had already been exposed to the virus.

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"If you look at the testimony of the witnesses they describe, bodies on top of bodies— they describe a warzone situation. One of the family members said she felt like they were being treated like a barn full of animals," Lumelsky said in court.

The SJC will determine whether the judge who dismissed the charges made the correct decision, and is hearing appeals for both sides of the case.

WBZ's Carl Stevens (@carlwbz) reports.

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