Student entries

The Case of Keith Luke (Part 2 of 3: prosecution and legal proceedings)


This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.


The Case of Keith Luke (Part 2 of 3: prosecution and legal proceedings)

Caitlin Marsengill

This is the second journal in a three part series on the case of Keith Luke. The first journal was a general overview and background information on the case. This journal will be on the prosecution and legal proceedings surrounding the case. While I will give a very basic overview of what happened, it is recommended that you read the first journal prior to this one as it will give you more details on what occurred and give context to the crimes Keith Luke was charged with. The final piece in the series will be an analysis and reflection of the case. As a disclaimer this case is particularly egregious as the crimes he committed sexual assault, violent, and racially motivated.

Judge John P. Connor Jr. ordered that Keith Luke be held in prison without bail. The district court arraigned hm, then he was indicted by a grand jury in the state of Massachusetts for his crimes on April 3, 2009, following his rampage on January 21, 2009, which resulted in the death of two people, and the rape and critical injuring of another. All the victims were of Cape Verdean descent and targeted due to their race. Keith Luke was indicted on charges of armed kidnapping with sexual assault, aggravated rape, armed home invasion, and two counts of first degree murder. The indictment moved the case to a superior court for trial. He plead not guilty to the charges.

Perhaps one of the most shocking things Keith Luke did was carve a Swastika into his forehead using a staple around his trial. In their opening statement, the defense asked the Plymouth County Superior Court jury to find him not guilty due to insanity. His attorney, Joseph Krowski Jr. told the jury that Luke had a history of mental illness, which included several hospitalizations in his opening statement. However, the prosecution said in their closing statement that an evaluation done by Bridgewater State Hospital determined that Luke was not mentally ill and he was criminally responsible for his crimes.

One of the articles by The Enterprise suggests that he attempted to assault and kill the psychiatrist who was evaluating him because they were Jewish. Due to this, they decided to take extra security measures during his trial. Several of the news articles stated that Keith Luke smirked or laughed at victims and their families during the trial. One of the notable people that testified against him included his mother who said that he isolated himself, skipped school, crafted weapons in his room, and was frequently in and out of psychiatric hospitals. She also stated that he slept on cinder blocks that were fashioned into the shape of a cross. One of the other notable witnesses was the woman he raped and attempted to kill.

Prior to being convicted, Luke appealed from a judgement of a single justice denying his petition for relief on June 23, 2011. On May 30, 2013 Luke was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder among other charges by a Plymouth County Superior Court jury in Massachusetts. Due to the first degree murder charges, he automatically faced a minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. He was serving his sentence in Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

One of the difficulties in summarizing the legal proceedings of this case is that it was difficult to find any court records other than the indictment and his appeal. On top of that the indictment that we were able to obtain is photocopied in a way that cuts off part of the page, thus we are unable to see the complete case number on the document. The information had to be pieced together via these two documents and several news articles. While this case is not federal and thus avoids the scam that is PACER, the online federal court record system that charges users in order to gain access to the public records (Huges 2019), the difficulty in gaining access to the court records for this case point to a common issue— that many of the online court record systems are out of date, clunky, and are often inefficient for the user obtaining the public records they are looking for. Similar to the problems of PACER, as described by the 2016 article “The Cost of Electronic Access to US Court Filings Is Facing a Major Legal Test of Its Own”, the Massachusetts court system did not allow a broad search of the whole system for cases involving Keith Luke, nor did it allow me to search only by last name, nor the contents of the records that would have led me to finding the records for this case. These issues highlight the problems with the court record system in the United States, and the inconsistency and non-uniformity of the record systems across different states.

Works Cited

Browdie, Brian. “The Cost of Electronic Access to US Court Filings Is Facing a Major Legal Test of Its Own.” Quartz, October 14, 2016.Preview the document https://qz.com/800076/the-cost-of-electronic-access-to-us-court-filings-is-facing-a-major-legal-test-of-its-own/ (Links to an external site.

Hughes, Seamus. “The Federal Courts Are Running An Online Scam.” POLITICO Magazine, March 20, 2019.Preview the document https://politi.co/2HJss6Y

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