Dorchester man to get life for 1992 South End murder

A Suffolk Superior Court jury today convicted James Witkowski of first-degree murder for the rape and suffocation of Lena Bruce in her South End apartment on July 12, 1992, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office reports.

The conviction means a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

Witkowski, 45, had evaded arrest until 2014, when he violated the terms of an assault-and-battery conviction, and was required to supply a DNA sample, which matched evidence found at the murder scene.

Prosecutors say Witkowski did not know Bruce when he attacked her. Bruce, 21, a Philadelphia native, had graduated with honors with a degree in electrical engineering from Tufts University just two months before her death.

Judge upholds the way Boston and Brookline limit gun licenses; says it's OK under the Second Amendment

A federal judge last week upheld Boston's and Brookline's tight restrictions on who can carry guns, saying the state law that allows them does not violate the Second Amendment.

The people who had sued - four Boston residents, one Brookline resident and a gun-rights group - immediately filed an appeal of US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor's ruling.

The residents were all denied licenses to carry guns in public for personal protection; the police departments instead issued them licenses only allowing them to carry guns to get to or from target practice or someplace where they could legally hunt, under a state law that lets police departments set limits on what people can use guns for outside the home.

Both Boston and Brookline require people who want to carry a gun at all times for personal protection to prove they have a specific reason to fear for their safety. Both communities also offer a restricted license allowing the right to carry while they are at work. In the Brookline case, the resident, who works as a photographer, was offered a license to carry while he was at work after telling police he carries expensive photographic equipment and works with expensive artwork.

In his ruling, Saylor said that while a US Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment involving gun-control laws in Washington DC makes it clear that people have a right to arm themselves at home, the current case law is less absolute when it comes to walking around in public with a gun. And even in the Washington, DC case, he wrote, the Supreme Court said the right to own a gun is not absolute - the court gave as examples felons and people with mental problems can be barred from gun ownership.

Saylor continued that:

To the extent that imposing "sporting," "target," "hunting," and "employment" restrictions on applicants who fail to show "good reason to fear injury" burdens conduct protected by the Second Amendment, that requirement is substantially related to the state's important objective in protecting public safety and preventing crime. As other courts have found, "requiring a showing that there is an objective threat to a person's safety - a special need for self-protection - before granting a carry license is entirely consistent with the right to bear arms."

Man ordered to enter his iPhone PIN in criminal investigation or face jail time

The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today a man under investigation by a grand jury in Middlesex County can be ordered to unlock his iPhone for investigators, in part because he's already told them what sort of information they might find there.

The court, ruling in the case of a man under investigation for assault and battery on two children in Lowell, said that the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination does not apply in cases where the information investigators would find is "a foregone conclusion."

A superior-court judge had stayed an order sending the man to jail pending his appeal; today's ruling means he has to comply or go to jail until he relents.

In this case, the Middlesex County District Attorney's office had previously submitted evidence that the man owned the iPhone in question and:

[T]he Commonwealth demonstrated sufficient knowledge to show that the factual statements that the petitioner's act of entering his PIN code would convey are foregone conclusions. As summarized in the grand jury materials submitted to the judge under seal, the Commonwealth already knew that the iPhone contained files that were relevant to its investigation based, in part, on information provided by the petitioner. In addition, the Commonwealth knew that a PIN code was necessary to access the iPhone, that the petitioner possessed and controlled the iPhone, and that the petitioner knows the PIN code and is able to enter it. Accordingly, the Commonwealth established independently and with specificity the authenticity, existence, and possession of the compelled information.

Thus, the order does not require the petitioner to communicate information that would fall within constitutional self-incrimination protection. The affidavit in support of the search warrant application established that the Commonwealth had probable cause to believe that the iPhone contained evidence of the crimes that are the subject of the grand jury investigation. The order simply allows execution of that warrant.

When a young man's body is dumped out of a car in front of your house

Steve Holt lives where police say Duncan Ketter's body was pushed out of a car after being shot yesterday. He writes:

"Did you know him?" I ask.

The boy looks up from his morning prayers at the shrine he’s just lit at the base of the street lamp on my corner, his eyes brimming with tears.

"Yeah," he replies, his lip quivering. ...

Angry elementary-school parents to descend on School Committee meeting en masse

The School Committee meets Wednesday (6 p.m. at the Bolling Building in Dudley Square). Parents upset about new elementary-school starting times as early as 7:15 a.m. are planning a large display of displeasure.

The parents say the changes - spit out overnight last week by computers at MIT - are simply too extreme for little kids, and their parents.

Organizers of the nascent anti-early-starting-time protest have already collected more than 5,300 signatures on an online petition and are planning to stand outside supermarkets to collect signatures on paper.

Where the unshoveled sidewalks are

As the snow fell, and then sat there, people filed complaints with the Boston 311 system about unshoveled sidewalks. Below is a map showing where the 123 complaints were filed, current as of late last night:

View Unshoveled sidewalks in a full screen map

If you're a fan of geocoded datasets, you can play with the 311 data. Unfortunately, the dataset does not include the comments filed with each complaint; for that, you'll still have to rummage around the 311 Web site.