While running unopposed, nearly 3% of the votes cast for District Attorney in Pittsfield, the county's largest municipality, were for write in candidates, and more than half of those were for a former Pittsfield resident who passed away the week before.
Capeless, who has been widely criticized by area residents in recent years for everything from aggressive prosecution of marijuana offenses to a perceived failure to protect witnesses, resulting in 2011's horrific triple homicide in Pittsfield, has also had his past handling of the Baran case called into question once again in the wake of his death.
In 1984 Baran became the first to be convicted in the 1980s "day care abuse scandals, " now generally regarded as a form of witchhunt mass hysteria that swept a number of American communities in the 1980s. Through a shadowy, dubious investigation filled with discredited tactics and information, Baran was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation.
Despite the fact that most legal experts who've reviewed the case concur with a Boston court finding describing the trial as a farce, Baran spent more than half of his adult life in jail, essentially for the crime of being a gay man working in a day care facility. His long languishment in prison, during which he sustained horrifying injuries that some say helped shorten his life considerably, is in large part due to the conduct of the Berkshire County District Attorney's office, first under former DA Daniel Ford and then under Capeless, who fiercely defended the handling of the trial by Ford, now a superior court judge up until Baran's eventual release in 2007.
The wave of write in votes in support of Baran may have been largely the result of a suggestion to this effect in a recent editorial in the Berkshire Eagle penned by local attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo.
According to City Clerk Linda Tyer, because the "candidate" is deceased, the write in votes will not be officially recorded by the state.
In a low turnout showing like that seen in the 2014 primary, with a total of only 2070 votes cast for that position, the write in response against Capeless was plainly significant. The percentage of write-ins for the District Attorney's position was three times that of any other official on the ballot.
When reached for a response, the District Attorney's office declined to comment on the write in votes, or on the case of Bernard Baran.
For more on the tragic persecution of an innocent man by the Berkshire County justice system, watch the film "Freeing Bernie Baran."