The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has overturned a superior court judge who dismissed the criminal indictments of two executives of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

A grand jury at the Hampden County Superior Court indicted superintendent Bennet Walsh and medical director David Clinton for elder neglect in violation of M.G.L. c. 265, Section 13K (d1/2).

The charges stem from the executives’ handling of patients during the COVID-19 “state of emergency.”

According to the SJC’s summary of the facts, prior to the governor’s declaration of emergency, officials at the Soldiers’ Home consolidated 42 disabled veterans into a single floor of the facility to cope with a staffing crisis.

The floor housing the patients was designed for a maximum of only 25.

As one witness told the grand jury, there were “bodies on top of bodies.” “[T]ightly packed together and sick,” and “coughing on top of each other,” the veterans at this State-run facility were left in their “johnnies,” were placed in beds less than two feet apart, and were deprived of adequate hydration and food. The grand jury heard that some veterans were nonresponsive; others lay listless, mouths agape. Those with COVID-19 symptoms intermingled with those without. Record-keeping was abysmal. It was, as one witness told the grand jury, “like a war zone.”

At least ten veterans died within three days of the consolidation.

Members of the grand jury also heard testimony that neighboring hospitals had offered use of their facilities to the Soldiers’ Home but the defendants “did not return the calls.”

The indictment was dismissed in a lengthy decision issued by superior court judge Edward McDonough.

Judge McDonough’s decision was appealed by the Commonwealth and reversed by the SJC. The SJC noted that

[S]ometimes bad things happen for no discernable reason, and no one is to blame. At any subsequent trial, prosecutors will need to prove their case. We conclude only that they will have the opportunity to do so.

The SJC’s opinion is attached below: