Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of penile-vaginal and digital-vaginal rape, holding that while two errors occurred during the trial proceedings, neither error required reversal of Defendant’s convictions. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) the judge erred by failing to instruct the jury that a defendant may not be found guilty of rape after the victim withdrew her consent after initially consensual intercourse unless the penetration continued after the victim communicated the withdrawal of consent to the defendant, and (2) the judge erred in admitting evidence of cocaine use for the purpose of allowing the jury to assess Defendant’s ability to perceive and recall events where there was no expert testimony regarding the effect of cocaine on perception and memory. The Supreme Court held that the judge erred in failing to provide the jury with an instruction regarding the withdrawal of consent and in admitting cocaine evidence for the purpose of assessing Defendant’s memory, but under the circumstances, neither error required reversal of Defendant’s convictions. View "Commonwealth v. Sherman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of possession of a class B substance with intent to distribute, holding that although the voir dire in this case was incomplete, it did not prejudice Defendant. During jury selection, and over Defendant’s objection, the judge excused for cause a prospective juror who said that it was her opinion that “the system is rigged against young African American males.” On appeal, Defendant argued that the judge abused his discretion in dismissing the prospective juror. While the Supreme Court declined to set aside the verdict, the Court took the opportunity to set forth the factors a judge should consider when a prospective juror states a belief or opinion based on his or her world view. View "Commonwealth v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge in this case allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress his postarrest statements, holding that the police lacked probable cause to arrest. Defendant was charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle, subsequent offense, and receiving stolen property over $250 in connection with items found in a stolen motor vehicle. Defendant filed a motion to suppress his postarrest statements on the grounds that the police lacked probable cause to arrest. The motion judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause that Defendant knew the vehicle was stolen, which is a requisite element of the crime of receiving a stolen motor vehicle. View "Commonwealth v. Pridgett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s requests for an instruction on accident and on involuntary manslaughter; (2) the absence of an instruction on voluntary manslaughter did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) this Court was not required to apply the theory of transferred intent self-defense to correct a miscarriage of justice; (4) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial based on the erroneous deprivation of two preemptory challenges; (5) a police officer’s identification testimony, even if erroneous, was not prejudicial; and (6) trial counsel’s failure to present an intoxication defense through available witnesses did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Pina" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendants Kevin McCormack and Brian Porreca of murder in the first degree, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to support each defendant’s murder conviction; (2) there trial judge did not err in concluding that there were no Brady violations; (3) there was no “newly discovered” evidence requiring a new trial; (4) Defendants’ rights to confrontation and due process were protected when a DNA expert testified at trial; (5) discovery violations in this case did not implicate the confrontation clause; (6) Defendants’ motion for disclosure of a confidential informant’s identity was properly denied; and (7) there was no reason for the Court to order a new trial or to reduce the degree of guilt under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Barry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice correctly denied relief because Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy. Petitioner pleaded guilty to multiple criminal charges. Petitioner later filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where Petitioner could have raised his claims and sought to withdraw his pleas on the basis of his claims by filing a motion for a new trial and by appealing from any adverse ruling on such a motion, Petitioner’s petition was properly denied. View "Blackwell v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the Court denying Appellant’s petition for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying the petition. Appellant was convicted of murder in the second degree in 1971 and was retried in 1998. The jury again found Appellant guilty of murder in the first degree. The appellate court affirmed. In his Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition, Appellant raised a jurisdictional argument that he previously raised in his second appeal and in subsequent proceedings before the appellate court and Supreme Judicial Court. The claim was rejected each time. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Appellant was not entitled to further review under the current petition of an issue that he had already raised, and which had already been resolved, in the course of his direct appeal and in subsequent proceedings. View "Beauchamp v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of involuntary manslaughter as a youthful offender, holding that the evidence proved that, by her wanton or reckless misconduct, Defendant caused the victim’s death by suicide and that Defendant’s conviction was not legally or constitutionally infirm. The trial judge concluded that Defendant’s act of encouraging the victim with text messages and phone calls to commit suicide and failure to act to overpowered the victim’s will to live and caused the victim’s death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence at trial was sufficient to establish Defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) Defendant’s verbal conduct was not protected by the First Amendment; and (3) the other legal issues raise by Defendant lacked merit. View "Commonwealth v. Carter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the trial judge’s issuance of harassment prevention orders against Defendant pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258E, 3(a), holding that Defendant’s conduct amounted to only one act of harassment, and therefore, Defendant’s conduct failed to satisfy the threshold requirement of the statute that a defendant commit at least three acts of harassment. Plaintiffs sought harassment prevention orders against Defendant after Defendant created a rap song in which he improvised lyrics pertaining to Plaintiffs. A district court judge issued the requested orders, concluding that, in posting the song on two Internet website and making the inflammatory statements within the song, Defendant had committed at least three individual acts of harassment against the plaintiffs. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order, holding that Defendant engaged only in one continuous act of harassment in this case. View "F.K. v. S.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction and the denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdict, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in limiting Defendant’s cross-examination of the Commonwealth’s witnesses; and (2) the procedure suggested by the trial judge, and approved by defense counsel, of using two interpreters did not violate Defendant’s constitutional due process rights. View "Commonwealth v. Chicas" on Justia Law