Ed Cashman spent twenty-five years on the bench, presiding over drunk driving cases and murders and everything in between. After a while, he started to question whether the American criminal justice system was actually achieving justice. The kinds of sentences that the public demanded and that lawyers accepted often felt more like vengeance than fairness. Judge Cashman tried to give defendants—even those charged with heinous of crimes—a chance to redeem themselves. It was a philosophy that some people didn’t understand. And Cashman eventually paid a terrible price for it.
Life Sentence: Eleven Years After Being Tried in the Court of Public Opinion, Former Judge Ed Cashman Defends Himself
By Mark Davis
The beautiful photo of Judge Cashman is by Matthew Thorsen of Seven Days.
The music for this show was made by Vermont musicians Brian Clark and Mike Donofrio and Peter Cressy.
Great judge, who was ahead of his time.
My name is Timothy Burgess. I was convicted, after jury trial, for sexual assault and lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor. I thought your piece on Ed Cashman, whom I know through reading his legal decisions, and through my deceased father, was excellent.
It is the character of men such as Judge Cashman, John A. Burgess, Judge William Hill, and Thomas Hayes, that brought me to the advocacy work I am engaged in today. I have seen the treatment of Registered citizens in Vermont prisons and in Private for profit facilities, so when the Honorable Mr. Cashman talks about short in facility stays, with longer sentences on the “outside”, it is a philosophy that has many positive attributes. Among them, it would easy the over crowding of our Vermont facilities and eliminate our out of State problem.
Thank you for your well done pod cast.
Judge Cashman is an active participant in after care of the offenders ie. he goes for dinner at the Dismas House a home for ex-offenders that need help with housing and provides the folks who he may have convicted with pizza and soda and is a great positive influence on them long after the charges have expired! Thank you to Bill Oreily and the FOX Machine for showing the world sensible judgemenship!
After a conversation with Paula Routly at 7days, I am writing to follow up on your podcast interview with Judge Cashman. I am a retired Probation & Parole Officer and consider Ed Cashman a man of tremendous integrity, a mentor (as odd as that might sound for a guy my age), and a friend. Your interview brought back fond memories of working with him, especially the years I worked as a member of the Chittenden County Drug Court Team when he was the presiding judge. Every Thursday the team would meet and hammer out the progress or lack thereof of the participants in the program. Judge Cashman would start the meeting by distributing a packet of the various case updates for the week. The top page would always have a cartoon (usually from the New Yorker) that had some pertinent meaning to the business at hand. He was respectful, inquisitive, empathic and always fair in his decisions, which included the defendant as well as the various members of the team (state’s attorneys, public defenders, private attorneys, case managers, police officers, recovery advocates, etc. Oh yeah…. and me, a Probation & Parole Officer who also happens to be a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.) It was intense work, yet always rewarding and often fun. He is a thinker. He made us think. (I’ll bet you can relate, as I saw a classic Cashman move when he spoke with you about shoplifting!) He did this with many, many defendants in court over the years. He’s obviously a tad eccentric and a good talker. (We’re both Jersey guys, though I always teased him about never being able to survive in my Jersey City neighborhood. He grudgingly agreed.) He was a man of honesty as your interview brings out. He is the most moral guy I have ever met. I was saddened to see the persecution that went on during the time of the Hulett case. The strain it put on him and his family was visible. I remember one afternoon going up to his private office and just hanging out with him for a short while to support him. His description to you of the nights of darkness really tore me up, because I know it was much, much worse than he described. What really pissed me off was the cowardice of the governor, the media, and even my administrators and co-workers at Corrections who refused to defend him even though they all knew better. I personally let my “superiors” know this at the time, and nearly earned myself a few days off for expressing my thoughts perhaps a bit too candidly.
Your podcast was tremendous and I thank you for doing it. I only wish that the article and the facts had come out a decade ago, but I doubt that many would have listened. Based on the comments online for 7days, I think people only hear what they want to hear.
Paula called to tell me she is printing a FeedBack letter I sent in the next edition of 7days. Judge Cashman and I have remained in occasional contact over the years since I retired in 2009, and I have even been a “guest speaker” for his Champlain College courses. Although this all has stirred up some dark memories, the silver lining is that we plan to have lunch together next week. It will be good to see him, but I hope he doesn’t cause me to think too much. Then again maybe that ain’t such a bad thing.
Thanks again for an excellent interview. I plan to check into Rumble Strip in the future.
My father was in prison before he married my mother and had five kids. He was an angry and violent man before he got caught and came out an angry violent man who was paranoid about police and that “they” were going to catch him and put him back in. Prison did not make him a better person. He heard criticism and judgement when there was none. He had blind rages over imagined insults and I can see now that he was was missing some very basic social skills. He was a square brick who didn’t fit in, didn’t know how to laugh and be happy and was his own worst critic. It is too bad that he didn’t have the strength of character to forgive himself, move on and become a different and better person, but to a large degree he never let himself out of his own prison. I have come to believe that every day is an opportunity for change and it’s not enough to just wish for it but you have to do the hard work and earn it with the support of others who can see the good in you, even if you haven’t found it yet your self.
He is a genius, and my idol. His concept of justice is spot on. “Justice only occurs on a face-to-face basis.” This is incredibly valuable.
I don’t remember how it got started, maybe we were both wearing bow ties one time when I was in court with him, so I started trying to remember to wear one whenever I was going to be in front of him. Then I realized that Judge Cashman was doing the same thing, and he would sometimes see me and say, “Oh, Mr. McCullough, I forgot to wear a bow tie today.”
In one case I had with him at the old State Hospital, and the trials were in a room right in the hospital complex, my client testified about why he had done why he had tried to plant a tree from outside in the toilet in his motel room, and Judge Cashman listened and talked to my client very respectfully. In explaining his decision to commit my client to the hospital, he told him, “I’m going to commit you because I don’t think you’re quite ready to leave, but I don’t think you’ll be here very long. When you do get out I expect I’ll probably see you out on Church Street. When you do see me, come up to me and let me know and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and we’ll talk.”
I don’t know if that coffee ever happened, but I know he would have been as willing to talk to him and make a personal connection as he did with that lawyer with the bow tie.
Thank you for that wonderful comment. I remember Mr McCullough very well. He is one of the good guys who dedicated his life and his efforts to helping the people on the margins. I also remember his client who was creating a nature preserve in his bathroom.
He never did seek me out. I do think of him on the occasions I drive by his apartment off Pearl Street in Burlington.