Jared Remy, 34, is accused of fatally stabbing his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, a day after being released in court on personal recognizance for allegedly assaulting her. (Facebook)

Rep. James Lyons Jr. of Andover is wrong. Marian Ryan is not the problem. The Middlesex County district attorney has spent decades as an assistant in that office diligently prosecuting domestic abuse cases.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is wrong, too. State law is not the problem. Massachusetts became a leader in the prevention and prosecution of domestic violence under the leadership of three successive attorneys general, all of whom, including Martha Coakley, graduated to that post from the Middlesex DA’s job.

The impulse to fire someone or to pass a law in the wake of the horrific stabbing death of a 27-year-old mother in Waltham is understandable, but it won’t stop the next such slaying.

The impulse to fire someone or to pass a law in the wake of the horrific stabbing death of a 27-year-old mother in Waltham is understandable, but it won’t stop the next such slaying. If a simple personnel change or an amendment to the Massachusetts Abuse Prevention Act could fix what’s wrong with our approach to domestic violence, we could move on to solving human trafficking and global warming.

Violence in the home is among the most challenging of social issues that confront the courts. Perpetrator and victim are in a relationship that one, or often both, may wish to preserve. Police and prosecutors are trained to minimize the chance of further assault but cannot force a victim to pursue the legal protections available to her. Judges are duty bound to err on the side of caution while still preserving the right of the accused to due process. Anyone who thinks that is a simple balancing act has not sat through many restraining order hearings.

Waltham police responded when Jennifer Martel called last Tuesday night to report that she was being assaulted by her boyfriend, Jared Remy, in the townhouse they shared. He was arrested and an emergency restraining order was issued barring him from returning home that night. He showed up as ordered for the scheduled hearing the next day. Martel chose not to seek to renew that protective order.

Should officials have sought to hold Remy anyway, knowing that victims often feel too intimidated to face their abuser in court? Remy’s decision to appear on Wednesday morning indicated that he was not a flight risk, the sole criteria for granting bail. Should prosecutors have sought a dangerousness hearing, given his criminal history and his record of assaulting other women with whom he was involved? It is easy in hindsight to say yes, of course. But it is not clear a judge would have ordered him held, given that Remy had had no involvement with the criminal justice system in the last eight years.

As inadequate a venue as the criminal justice system is for resolving domestic violence cases, it was not so long ago that it did not much care about protecting victims of spousal abuse at all. As it happens, the fatal stabbing of Jennifer Martel came exactly 27 years after the domestic violence murder of another young woman in Massachusetts. The slaying of 22-year-old Pamela Nigro Dunn of Arlington in 1986 prompted particular public outrage because of the remarks of a judge who scolded her for wasting the court’s time with her domestic squabbles and belittled her fear that her husband would kill her, weeks before he did just that.

We do not yet know all the facts about the fatal stabbing of Jennifer Martel. We do know that the system was more responsive to her than it was to Dunn. But Remy’s lawyer is making the kind of remarks that illustrate just how far we still have to go as a society to understand the nature of domestic violence.

The best efforts of the criminal justice system cannot root out the cause of domestic abuse, an individual’s pathological need for power and control over the more vulnerable.

Peter Bella, Remy’s attorney, told reporters after his client was ordered held without bail on the murder charge that “I’m not sure anyone really knows what happened, what started this whole issue. We know how it ended. We don’t know how it started.”

What does he think? That she burned his dinner? Talked back to him? Failed to iron his gym shorts? Is somehow responsible for the rage that left her dead on the patio?

The best efforts of the criminal justice system cannot root out the cause of domestic abuse, an individual’s pathological need for power and control over the more vulnerable. That is the problem we have yet to confront. Demanding Marian Ryan’s resignation and ordering a review of domestic violence laws might make us feel better. But only until the next time.


Tags: Crime, Gender, Law, Red Sox

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • dust truck

    “Martel chose not to seek to renew that protective order.”

    Sheesh. This happens wayyyyy too often.

  • lalu

    Just another muscle bound, angry, ignorant, macho man on steroids who never learned how to be a decent human being. The system needs to educate and test these psychotic sociopaths until they learn or else surgically remove their testicles, Men slaughter and rape women & children every day. It goes on and on while nothing of any substance is done to stop it. Women (and decent men) worldwide need to organize against the oppression and fear of male domination. I’m just disgusted with the status quo.

    • fun bobby

      I was with you until you suggested castration and blamed men in general for the actions of a few

    • Daniel Giaimo

      Your comment seems to imply that the only indecent people are men. Seems quite sexist to me.

  • Rick

    Jared was arrested Tuesday and released on Wednesday morning.

    • Frannie Carr

      Thank you Rick. That error has been corrected. — Frannie, editor

      • Rick

        There is still a reference to Remy appearing on Thursday. It was Wednesday.

  • jefe68

    This man had a problem that’s for sure. Why he was not in jail is beyond me as he had a record of 15 criminal charges since 1998, according to the Waltham court records. He has been accused of assaulting five people — including four women. I’m not sure what happened here in terms of him being released, but clearly his past record was ignored when it should have been a factor. The system clearly failed Marian Ryan and her child.

    • keltcrusader

      Jefe68, I agree this man shouldn’t have been let go. I have heard the family of the victim has said she was asked by his parents not to keep the restraining order in place and they would protect her. If that is true, shame on them!! FYI: It should be Jennifer Martel ( Marian Ryan is Middlesex DA)

      • dust truck

        “his parents” as in Jerry Remy? In that case he should be tried as an accomplice!

      • jefe68

        Thanks, copied the wrong name.
        If this guy had more than three felony drug charges he would be in jail right now. That a violent criminal, (who is clearly telling society that he does not care to follow it’s laws in regards to being a violent thug) can be let loose after committing 15 crimes in as many years, including five violent assaults, shows how skewed the system is.

  • Nicole

    Laws alone may not be able to address all of the issues surrounding domestic violence, but maybe extending the amount of time for an emergency restraining order would help. If it is common for victims not to show up to renew a protective order, at least make the initial order valid for at least 72 hours- long enough that the abused partner has time to call family, pack some bags, and get out of town. That, and perhaps require that a counselor or social worker trained in domestic violence needs to meet with the victim within 24 hours to try to drive home the statistics on how frequently abusers repeat their actions, and make them aware of their options. Family and friends may not want to believe that their loved one is in danger and urge them to work it out, while a trained professional knows how often things end tragically in the real world. Such a sad situation that happens too often.

  • Janis Doucette

    Violence against women needs to be treated as any other such crime. We maintain and exacerbate the tradition of secrecy inherent in our domestic violence experiences when we treat this crime differently. Take the gloves off! Domestic violence should be classified as a hate crime. We need to stop protecting the perpetrator. As a society we should protect the victim, not leave it to the victim to protect herself. As it is, we place the victim in a double bind to issue or renew a restraining order. The law should require a restraining order and the perpetrator should be restrained – no extenuating circumstances. On another level – parents beware. You do not help your children when you protect them from the consequences of their own behavior.

    • fun bobby

      one problem is a piece of paper does not really restrain anyone

    • Daniel Giaimo

      Without any sort of due process? Restraining orders are already highly suspect due to requiring absolutely no evidence other than a written affidavit to obtain. Do you really wish to live in a police state?

  • fun bobby

    wow a reasonable cognoscenti article. statistically it was bound to happen sometime.
    I think changing to a “shall issue” format for granting firearms licenses would result in more women obtaining firearms licenses. it would be great if we could also get some sort of fast track system for women who are in dangerous situations to get their licenses in a reasonable period of time. the police and courts mean well but there is just no way for them to protect you

    • dust truck

      Typical gun-nut response: Somehow, by merely OWNING a gun all a person’s problems are solved.

      Considering the psychological hold that abusers have over their victim, I doubt a majority of victims would be able to use the gun and worse it would probably just end up getting used against them.

      • fun bobby

        “Somehow, by merely OWNING a gun all a person’s problems are solved. ”

        I never said any such thing nor would I. why would you mischaracterize what I said? Unless you are a typical gun nut and that is your response. if that’s the case then I would not need to remind you there is a severe ammo shortage and one always has the problems of buying storing and cleaning ones guns and ask you what your favorite gun is. you would know I was kidding and that firearms are an awesome responsibility and provide no guarantee of safety would be unsaid because we both would know it. So what’s your favorite gun?

        “Considering the psychological hold that abusers have over their victim, I doubt a majority of victims would be able to use the gun and worse it would probably just end up getting used against them.”
        Oh, is that because they are women? tell me more

        • dust truck

          Wow. Lot of assumptions there, but since you’re resorting to all sorts of logic fallacies, I can only assume that you’re typing this from a mental institution and arguing with you will only result in wasted time. Ta ta.

          • fun bobby

            well done. when you get owned and called out on BS don’t try to defend it (because its indefensible) instead make an ad hominem attack. Brilliant!

    • jefe68

      How do you know a gun would have protected Marian Ryan?
      There are so many ways this could have gone down if she pulled out a gun. She might have shot and missed, or killed him and been charged with manslaughter. Then what?
      The bottom line is the courts failed this woman.

      • fun bobby

        hmm you left out the possibility where she shoots him and its clearly self defense so she gets to go home and gets her gun back. I personally know a woman who shot her ex husband with a shotgun after he had shot her and she somehow grabbed the gun. you left out the possibility that she pulls her gun out and does not have to shoot him and he leaves her the hell alone. being armed is not “the answer to everything” jefe only you think we think that. we think that a great feature of guns is that they make any one person equal to any other person no matter how large they are or how many steroids they eat. jefe you left out the fact that if she had for some reason shot him to death and had been charged and convicted of manslaughter that she would be alive. are you saying this way was better than that?
        I did not say whether a gun would have helped this woman. Who knows? All I have said is that we need to ensure they are getting access to them which at this time in this state they are not getting the access they should as defined by current law. I also believe we need to change the laws to make them even more easily accessible to women if they choose to have them.

  • Mblueeyes58

    The first offense is the best opportunity for dealing with those who commit domestic violence against any loved one. The first time the police have to respond to a call is the time when the abuser should be whisked off to a 30 day evaluation/holding period in order to address the why. This time would also provide the victim(s) (many children are abused along with wives and girlfriends) with time for rethinking what this relationship means and planning for any changes. If the police have to come to one’s house, regardless of the victim recanting, then it is time to take action. I know…who is going to pay for this? But how much does society have to spend in order to take the killer to trial, keep the killer in prison for even a few years, place children into social services, pay for, or offset the medical bills of the victims, sign the family on to welfare, etc.? The list of expenses is longer than the list of options in a menu. Take action now.

  • teriincali

    Half of all domestic violence is mutual. Why are you so quick to dismiss that idea? You suggested that she had burned his dinner. Will you please stop writing about domestic violence as if it’s always just men abusing women? That simply is not true.

    • Name

      As a survivor of DV, I know that the fact is, that usually the abuser is set off by something small and pointless, such as burning their dinner. And although there ARE cases of DV against men by women, or between same sexes, this particular case was about a man abusing, then killing a woman. And the same thought ran through my head: “what did she do to piss him off? It was probably something that someone who isn’t an abuser wouldn’t even get mad about!”

      • CA Nolan

        I agree. My ex tried to choke me because I asked him to help me get our sons read for bed. Why did I deserve that? He is a Marine Colonel so much stronger than me. How was I suppose to defend myself? Why did I need to defend myself against someone who before he went to Iraq had never laid a hand on me?

      • teriincali

        Abuse by women towards men is NOT rare. Women commit 70% of all domestic violence.

  • CA Nolan

    Until the courts truly understand the dynamics of domestic abuse they will not be able to protect the victims. Courts need to understand women and children do not ask to be abused. My ex-husband is a USMC Colonel. The courts and the military ignored the domestic abuse. I got a protective order on my own because my $500 an hour attorney said I should not “kill the goose that laid the golden egg.” He did not realize when you are the victim of domestic abuse there is no golden egg. My ex-husband had the protective order dismissed on the basis of a lack of personal jurisdiction. I moved far away from him. He cannot hurt me physically but uses the court system to hurt me emotionally which has taken its toll on my family and me. Why do I need to go to court year after year to defend myself or make him pay the right amount of child support? The USMC does not care and actually condones the abuse. Even though he is a USMC Colonel and a law enforcement official he is not paying the court ordered child support. He knows I am fearful of him and the courts “love” him because he is a “war hero.” I am just a woman and mom. He enjoys the power and control he gets by deciding how much child support to pay. Courts do not have the time to “get it.”

  • Jen

    This article is ignorant and offensive in how heavily it buys into the fantasy of the abused woman wanting to be in the relationship (although not deserving to be killed). You know why a lot of women stay? Because they think they have a better shot of staying alive and with their children than if they attempt to escape the relationship. The author seems to think these women actually *have* a lot of viable options available to them. What planet is she on? Jennifer Martel had an emergency, 1-day restraining order that expired at 4PM on the day her soon-to-be killer was arraigned at 9AM. Is it so shocking the victim may have been too frightened to enter the court knowing her attacker was there? Shouldn’t the court have been in touch with her more about the 4PM deadline for *her* papers and less about the 9AM arraignment of her attacker? She wasn’t trying to stay with Jared Remy. She was trying to leave him. He murdered her as she tried to pack to leave or, as her own mother said, as she “planned her escape.” Guess what! The options suck in almost every town. They really, really do. As a victim of a domestic partner who has threatened or even promised to murder you, you know how unlikely it is that the system will be able to protect you. Your choices are basically to try to stay alive with him, or give up everything–job, kids’ school, access to friends/family–while you hide in a secret shelter for 90-days, after which, with no job and no home, you will hope to get into homeless family housing, hope he doesn’t find you, and wonder why when you were the victim, you are also the one facing all the consequences.

  • Terry Taylor

    Need a journalist to help me get my story out– Please visit “help Terry Taylor” – on facebook – the story has major trending issues including being taken from a DV shelter where I was told I was protecteD by VAWA, cyber-stalking and the lack of updated laws and the impact of my perpetrators destruction of my life through technology– a series of blows of injustice from the legal system.. National level DV advocates involved and I wrote a 300+ page journal while in jail–PLEASE CONTACT ME