A Boston federal judge formed a rare relationship with a gang member she sent to prison, reports the Boston Globe. The man was shot to death on a street last weekend. Damien Perry was a 20-year-old member of a group of 30 young men who terrorized a neighborhood in the 1990s, selling crack cocaine and killing those who got in their way. Nancy Gertner was the Yale-educated federal court judge presiding over his case. Perry was smart, polite, and eloquent, and Gertner liked him. After his prison release in 2002, she would see him regularly, sometimes for regular court appointments and other times because he dropped by for a visit.
After Perry, 28, was killed, Gertner said, “This was someone that we thought could make it. What a waste of a life. What a total waste of a life.” The bond between Gertner and Perry was unusual in a court system where judges tend to see an endless train of society’s ugliest problems and rarely make personal connections with defendants who live in different worlds. Perry was black, the child of teen parents, and a high school dropout. Gertner is white, graduated from Barnard College and Yale Law School.