Mother of 3 fire victims loses claim of town bias

July 28, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

The City of Cambridge did not violate the rights of a woman whose three children were killed in a fire set by a man released from police custody hours after a domestic fight, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

Carol Pinder of Cambridge claimed in a federal suit that the 1989 deaths occurred because Cambridge discriminates against domestic-assault victims. Ms. Pinder said her former boyfriend, Donald Pittman, should not have been freed three hours after hitting her during a domestic incident.

She said that Officer Donald Johnson's failure to bring charges that would have persuaded a court commissioner to detain Pittman violated her constitutional rights to equal protection of the law and due process.

But Senior Judge Edward S. Northrop said in an order filed yesterday that Ms. Pinder failed to prove Cambridge discriminates against domestic assault victims. And he said she did not prove a link between the officer's actions in charging Pittman and the children's murders.

Judge Northrop's ruling dismissed Cambridge from the $18 million lawsuit filed last year. But he ruled that a jury will decide whether Officer Johnson is liable for wrongful death, and pain and suffering damages in the incident.

Pittman, who is serving three life sentences for the arson deaths, broke into the house about 8 p.m. on March 10, 1989, punched Ms. Pinder in the mouth and threw objects at her. After Officer Johnson arrived, Pittman threatened to kill Ms. Pinder and the three children, court papers say. The officer arrested Pittman and charged him with destruction of property, but he did not disclose to the court commissioner the seriousness of the incident, court papers say.

Pittman was released from jail just before 11 p.m., and he immediately went to Ms. Pinder's home and set the fire. The woman's children, Kim Pinder, 11, LaToya Brummell, 4, and Troy Brummell, 2, died.

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