With a razor blade resting on her tongue, Debbie Moccia threatened Associate Justice John “Jack” T. Lu’s court that she would commit suicide by swallowing the blade unless sent to a state hospital instead of prison.
It was the second time Moccia, who is a Level 3 sex offender and trans-identified, had smuggled a blade into a courtroom by hiding it in her mouth.
Local press reports describe the situation as tense and potentially dangerous to individuals in the court as Moccia, with a long criminal record, proceeded to try and negotiate her way out of jail. Lu, however, was able to avoid a tragic ending that day.
“Lu calmly but firmly told her that he was willing to listen to her but that first, she had to spit out the blade,” the Gloucester Times reported in January.
Lu is set to preside over the trial of Jabrai Jordan Copney—the alleged gunman in the May 2009 Kirkland shooting—which is slated to begin today in Middlesex Superior Court. Interviews and a review of cases that have passed through Lu’s courtroom indicate a man with a calm control of his courtroom, someone who can move through his docket—and even end the occasional tense stand-off.
“He’s been in the county for a while and he’s very serious and conscientious,” Superior Court Judge David Lowy said of Lu.
Although the official trial—which, according to prosecutors and the defense, will likely last two to three weeks—starts today, pre-trial hearings have been ongoing since July of 2009.
Lu was appointed to the trial after the original judge—Superior Court Judge Wendy Gershengorn—retired mid-trial.
As a member of the Massachusetts Superior Court, Lu presides over a variety of cases—ranging from parental kidnapping to the legality of a neighborhood fence—but Copney’s is not the first murder trial that he has overseen.
In 2008, he presided over the case of Jeremias Bins, who was accused of beating his wife and stepson to death with a hammer.
Bins was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and ordered to serve two consecutive life sentences.
At the time, Gerard T. Leone ’85, the District Attorney currently involved in the Kirkland case, praised the ruling of Lu and the jury.
“We thank the jury for rendering this just verdict and speaking for [the wife], [the son] and their family,” Leone said to the Metro West Daily News in 2008.
Recently, Lu heard the case of a Salem woman who is charged with the attempted murder of her autistic son.
Kristen A. LaBrie allegedly withheld medication from her cancer-stricken nine-year-old son, who died in March of 2009.