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Kevin Hayden appointed Suffolk County District Attorney

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Kevin Hayden appointed Suffolk County District Attorney
Sex Offender Registry Board Chair Kevin Hayden, pictured during an appearance on "Greater Boston" in 2016. Photo courtesy GBH News

Gov. Charlie Baker has appointed Kevin Hayden, chair of the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, as Suffolk County District Attorney. The interim position expires Nov. 8, the end of the term of outgoing DA Rachael Rollins, who has been appointed U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

Hayden, who was sworn in Monday, served 11 years in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where he led the Safe Neighborhood Initiative Unit, before working in private practice. He has served eight years on the Sex Offender Registry Board.

Baker said Hayden’s experience with community engagement through the Safe Neighborhoods Initiative has given him the experience necessary for the job.

“Kevin Hayden is a dedicated public servant with a proven record of commitment to equitable justice and community engagement, and I am confident he will serve the families of Suffolk County as a respectful, collaborative and compassionate partner as district attorney,” Baker said in a press statement.

Hayden takes the reins at the office as Rollins ends a tenure marked by progressive reform. Rollins came into office in 2019 on the heels of a decisive victory in a campaign in which she promised to end criminal prosecution for a slew of misdemeanor crimes, such as shoplifting, trespassing and disorderly conduct.

During her three years in office, her prosecutors trained their focus on violent crimes and created a Discharge Integrity Team to investigate police shootings and allegations of excessive force. She also created an Integrity Review Bureau to review post-conviction claims of innocence, unjust and unconstitutional convictions, and sentencing disparities. That unit has overturned more than 240 years of wrongful convictions, according to the office’s website.

Attorney and consultant Rahsaan Hall, also a former prosecutor, said Hayden is well suited to follow in Rollins’ footsteps.

“Kevin Hayden is a seasoned attorney who has a breadth of experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney and Sex Offender Registry Board chairman,” said Hall, who served with Hayden in the District Attorney’s Office. “I think he brings a wealth of knowledge of the community, given his connections to the Black clergy, Black community and through his work in the DA’s office.”

In a statement, Hayden said he is honored by Baker’s appointment.

“I started 25 years ago as a young prosecutor right here in Suffolk County,” Hayden said. “Over the years it has remained the desire of my heart to serve and protect our many diverse communities. So it’s truly my distinct honor and privilege to be called home by the Governor through this appointment.”

Should Hayden decide to run for election to the seat, he would have until May 5 to submit nomination papers. While no potential candidates for the seat have yet emerged, the 2018 race drew five Democratic contenders and one independent.

Criminal defense attorney Carlton Williams, an assistant clinical professor of law at Cornell University, said there’s still room for reform in the office.

“I want the DA’s office to stop wasting time prosecuting Black protesters,” he said.

Williams, who represents several protestors charged in connection with a May 31, 2020 demonstration in Boston, said Rollins made progress in reforming the department, but he noted that misdemeanor crimes were still prosecuted under her watch. He said he would like to see more police who lie in police reports and under oath added to the department’s list of unreliable witnesses.

Williams also noted that there is a backlog on investigations into police shootings.

“We’re still waiting on reports for police shootings from two years ago,” he said.

Hayden grew up in Newton and graduated in 1990 from Dartmouth College and Boston University School of Law in 1995. He lives in Roslindale with his wife and two children. As chief of the Safe Neighborhood Initiative Unit, he worked collaboratively with local, state and federal partners to lead violence prevention programs and initiatives for at-risk youth, services for victims and witnesses, and offender reentry efforts.

Hayden also served as an assistant district attorney for the Anti-Gang Unit, the Homicide Response Team, the Juvenile Unit and for the Boston Municipal Court.