Update: Capeless to seek re-election this fall as Berkshire DA
PITTSFIELD -- Fresh off his successful prosecution of the Adam Lee Hall triple murder case, Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless on Thursday announced he will seek re-election this fall for another four-year term.
Capeless just completed a successful prosecution of Hall, who received three consecutive life terms in state prison on Feb. 11 for killing three Pittsfield men in August 2011. Two other defendants in the high-profile case are awaiting trial. The 23-year veteran of the Berkshire DA office - the last 10 as the county's top prosecutor - says his campaign announcement didn't hinge on Hall's conviction.
"I never seriously considered not running," Capeless said in an Eagle interview Thursday afternoon. "Getting the verdicts was invigorating and reinforced my decision to run."
A Springfield jury found Hall guilty on 15 of 19 charges, including three counts of murder for the slayings of David Glasser, Edward Frampton and Robert Chadwell.
During the Hall trial, the Berkshire DA's office also lost the well-publicized case against Scott Muir. On Jan. 28, Muir was acquitted by a Berkshire Superior Court jury of all 19 charges related to the alleged sexual assault of five young girls during his tenure as a counselor from 2002-2007 in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.
While disappointed over the outcome, Capeless says he isn't about keeping track of wins and losses as every court case is difficult to prosecute.
"We're not afraid to proceed on cases that aren't a lock," he said, adding he was "willing to lose in an effort to achieve justice."
Capeless, 61, began his prosecutorial career in 1982, working in the Middlesex District Attorney Office, before the late Berkshire DA Gerard Downing named him his first assistant district attorney in 1991.
In January 2004, then-Gov. Mitt Romney appointed Capeless the interim DA in the wake of Downing's death, in December 2003. He was first elected to the office in the fall of 2004 to serve the remaining two years of Downing's term. He won his first full term in 2006, followed by an easy re-election in 2010, having run unopposed.
Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn and Berkshire Sheriff Thomas Bowler said they are pleased Capeless wants four more years to help them fight crime.
"His offices is always willing to take our calls," Wynn said. "There is always an open line of communication, especially with major cases."
Bowler cites the DA's Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force as a key to the cooperation between law and order. "Very few law enforcement communities nationwide work collaboratively at such a high level of effectiveness as the ... task force," Bowler said in a written statement.
Aside from bringing criminals to justice, Capeless touted several initiatives he put into place that he says have strengthened law enforcement and community awareness, including programs aimed at bullying in Berkshire schools and safety for senior citizens.
In addition, the high school Youth Advisory Board he formed nearly six years ago has provided teenagers the opportunity to better the lives of other students through mentoring projects and give law enforcement insight into what's on the minds of area young people.
"It's not just about keeping kids out of the court system," Capeless said. "If they are happy, engaged and appreciate their families, we don't have to worry about them."
Atop Capeless' worry list is the ongoing abuse of prescription drugs - oxycodone, percocet, fentanyl to name a few - and he pointed a finger at those physicians quick to dole out the painkillers.
"It's a public health crisis and real scrutiny is needed of the medical community," he said. "[Doctors] have to absolutely rethink opioids and use them as a last resort."
In prepared remarks, state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, praised Capeless for making the public aware of prescription medication abuse and how it can lead to heroin addiction.
"He has done more than nearly anyone in the Commonwealth to highlight this problem and work to find effective and long-lasting solutions," said Downing, son of the late Gerard Downing.
Capeless also took a swipe at the establishment of medical marijuana clinics in Massachusetts, calling state's application process for awarding clinic licenses "flawed" and a "disaster from the beginning."
He says voters were "duped" into approving the medical marijuana law in 2012, along with the decriminalization of possessing small amounts of pot several years ago.
"The end game is the legalization of marijuana," said Capeless, a measure he would vehemently oppose, if ever put on the state election ballot.
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