Top Mass. Court Hears Arguments Over Holyoke Soldiers' Home Leaders Charges

The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court took the matter under advisement, so it could be weeks or months before they make a ruling on the state's appeal

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Massachusetts' top court heard arguments Wednesday in the attorney general’s office appeal of a ruling dismissing indictments against the top two former leaders at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

More than 70 people died in the COVID-19 outbreak in the home for veterans at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, one of the deadliest such outbreaks at a U.S. long-term care facility. That September, the state indicted former Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director David Clinton on criminal neglect charges over allegations they put 42 veterans together in a single unit that usually houses 25 beds, when they knew some were COVID-positive and some weren’t.

A Hampden Superior Court judge dismissed those indictments in November 2021, but the attorney general’s office appealed, leading to Wednesday's hearing at the Supreme Judicial Court.

An investigation by a former federal prosecutor hired by Gov. Charlie Baker found that management at the home made several "utterly baffling" decisions that allowed the virus to spread almost unchecked.

The daughters of Air Force veteran Charles Lowell, who served in Vietnam and was one of the vets who died of COVID after being exposed in the facility, were in court. They said it’s disgusting that the people in charge aren’t taking responsibility for the lives lost there.

“Somebody needs to be accountable. You should have picked up the phone, you should have accepted help,” Brenda Lowell said.

Lawmakers have released a report after dozens of veterans died from COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

Her sister, Susan Kenney, added, “Just to hear them try to justify it is so silly to me. Acknowledge and take your lumps. You were wrong, you’re a doctor, you’re a caregiver. It’s just horrible and to accept no wrongdoing at all, it’s disgusting.”

The justices took the matter under advisement, so it could be weeks or months before they make a ruling on the appeal.

This November, a nearly $58 million settlement to a class-action lawsuit over the Holyoke Soldiers' Home case won approval from a federal judge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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