Romney’s “Willie Horton” moment?

The discussions are heating up in the blogosphere and elsewhere regarding a story printed in today’s Boston Herald regarding a Romney-appointed judge who released a convicted murder who, after serving his sentence, was issued a warrant on a violent assault charge. After appealing his bail charge, the judge released him on “personal recognizance,” only to see him turn around and commit a double murder:

The father of a Washington woman slaughtered along with her new husband – allegedly at the hands of a convicted Bay State killer – said his daughter’s accused murderer never should have been released from prison here.

“It’s because of stupidity in Massachusetts that my daughter is dead” said Darrel Slater, 55, who is preparing to bury his daughter, Beverly Mauck, 28, and her husband Brian Mauck, 30.

The couple was executed in their home in rural Graham, Wash., Saturday after an alleged argument with Daniel Tavares Jr., 41, who in 1991 pleaded guilty to hacking his mother to death with a carving knife in their Somerset home in served 16 years for that crime.

Tavares finished his sentence on June 14, but was immediately re-arrested on a warrant charging him with two counts of assaulting Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center prison guards during his troubled stint behind bars, Department of Correction officials said.

Worcester prosecutors requested $50,000 cash bail for each of those charges, an amount approved by Clinton District Court Judge Martha Brennan, according to court documents.

But Tavares appealed the bail and on July 16, Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman released him on personal recognizance. Tavares was freed and fled the state to marry and live in a Washington trailer with Jennifer Lynn Tavares, who met the convict at Walpole after answering an inmate personal ad. He defaulted on a July 23 court date, prosecutors said.

Captain Ed cuts through all the hype surrounding the issue here in a well-reasoned post, where he addresses the comparisons being made to the Willie Horton case:

The e-mails I have received about this today, based on a report at Free Republic, call this Romney’s Willie Horton event. Romneys’ opponents there and elsewhere claim these murders are a “direct result of Romney’s liberal appointments to the bench,” and a foretaste of what will come from a Romney presidency. Unfortunately, this is quite an exaggeration.


This [case], however, differs from the Horton issue with Michael Dukakis in two important ways. First, judicial appointments in Massachusetts work very differently than at the federal level. As with New York City, a judicial panel recommends a few candidates for each opening to the Governor, who rarely if ever works outside the system. These candidates get reviewed by the panel through their records, but with their names removed, in order to ensure fairness. Tuttman would have appeared to be a good candidate; she had a good track record as a prosecutor, and had won convictions in some higher-profile cases.

Romney’s critics then complained that he hadn’t appointed more women to the bench. He pressed the Judicial Nominating Commission to provide more potential female candidates for appointments. This demonstrates that Romney had only small latitude in selecting these candidates.


Romney’s appointment in Tuttman certainly turned out badly, but one has to understand the conext of that appointment. The nomination process has burdensome limits, and the selection of a successful prosecutor for that slot would certainly have given some confidence that the new judge would err on the side of caution from the bench. Tragically, that hope was dashed and two people have had their lives senselessy ended — but that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the judge herself, and of course the murderer.

I have a lot of issues with Mitt Romney, but this isn’t one of them. If anything it’s a sad statement on the judicial nomination process in addition to the obvious sheer stupidity that can be shown by those in the court system charged with upholding the law in this country.