Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial. Following a jury-waived trial, Defendant was convicted of rape, subsequent offense, and indecent assault and battery on a person age fourteen or older. In his motion for a new trial, Defendant argued that his jury waiver was neither knowing nor negligent and that defense counsel was constitutionally ineffective because neither the trial judge nor counsel disclosed that the judge’s son was employed as an assistant district attorney in the office of the district attorney for the district that prosecuted the indictments. The Supreme Judicial held (1) the trial judge’s failure to inform Defendant of his familial relationship with a member of the prosecuting attorney’s office during the jury-waiver colloquy was not error; and (2) although counsel’s failure to inform Defendant of the judge’s familial relationship with a member of the prosecuting attorney’s office fell below behavior that might be expected from an ordinary lawyer, counsel’s failure to do so was not prejudicial. View "Commonwealth v. Duart" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on the theories of extreme atrocity or cruelty and felony murder with home invasion and armed burglary, assault on occupant as the predicate felonies, and declined to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) there was no error in the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made during an interview with the police; (2) there was no prejudicial error in the admission of hearsay testimony from various witnesses; (3) the trial judge erred in denying Defendant’s request for a DiGiambattista instruction where a portion of Defendant’s interview with the police was not audio recored, but the error was not prejudicial; (4) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a mistrial following the jury’s exposure to inadmissible evidence; and (5) a statement made in the prosecutor’s closing argument was impermissible, but no substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice arose from the statement. View "Commonwealth v. Santana" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed Defendant’s convictions for three counts of aggravated rape of a child. Among the issues raised on appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge erred in interpreting the first complaint rule to require the disclosure of the perpetrator’s identity to the first complaint witness and allowing a law enforcement officer to testify as the first complaint witness. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the admission of the officer’s testimony as first complaint evidence was in error because the essential feature of first complaint evidence is the report of a sexual assault, not the identity of the perpetrator, and the error was prejudicial; (2) the trial judge erred in admitting the complainant’s testimony as to her multiple disclosures of the sexual assault; and (3) the trial judge erred in excluding Defendant’s proffered expert testimony in support of her defense based on battered woman syndrome because a defendant asserting duress based on battered woman syndrome is not required to present affirmative evidence of abuse as a predicate to the defense. View "Commonwealth v. Asenjo" on Justia Law

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An order granting the specific performance of a plea agreement constituted error. Pursuant to a plea agreement reached in 1994, Defendant pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree in exchange for the opportunity to immediately seek parole. Defense counsel represented that the Commonwealth promised Defendant that he would not have to be in custody for the parole board to conduct a parole hearing, but several attempts at holding a parole hearing were unsuccessful. Defendant was eventually allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant was then retried on the original indictment and convicted of murder in the first degree. In 2013, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial. Although the judge found Defendant’s arguments were without merit, the judge ordered specific performance of the 1994 plea agreement and allowed Defendant to plead guilty to murder in the second degree. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the grant of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding that the judge in 2013 abused her direction in deciding to enforce the 1994 plea agreement because the prosecutor did not make an enforceable promise to Defendant that he need not be in custody for the parole hearing. View "Commonwealth v. Francis" on Justia Law

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Holding someone in a holding cell at the request of federal immigration officers, pursuant to a federal civil immigration detainer, constitutes an arrest under Massachusetts law. Furthermore, Massachusetts court officers do not have the authority to arrest someone at the request of a federal immigration authorities, pursuant to a civil immigration detainer, solely because the federal authorities believe the person is subject to civil removal. Petitioner was held by Massachusetts court officers in a holding cell at the request of a federal immigration officer pursuant to a federal civil immigration detainer. Petitioner’s counsel filed a petition in the county court on his behalf, asking a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court to order the municipal court to release him. Because Petitioner was subsequently taken into federal custody, the single justice considered the matter moot but reserved and reported the case to the full court. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for entry of a judgment stating that Petitioner’s case was dismissed as moot and declaring that Massachusetts law provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a federal civil immigration detainer beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from state custody. View "Lunn v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for raping a fourteen-year-old boy and two thirteen-year-old boys. The court held (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating statements she made to the police because, based on the totality of the circumstances, Defendant’s confession was voluntary; (2) the trial court’s decision not to further redact the video recording of Defendant’s incriminating statements that was shown at trial was within the range of reasonable alternatives; (3) although two of the prosecutor’s closing statements during closing argument were improper, the statements were not prejudicial; and (4) the trial judge’s lack of authority to relieve Defendant from registering as a sex offender under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178E(f) did not constitute a due process violation as applied to Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Hammond" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for the first-degree murders of three victims and concluded that Defendant was not entitled to relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; (2) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in admitting photographs of items found during the search of Defendant’s apartments; (3) the judge did not abuse his discretion in admitting Defendant’s statement regarding scars on his right arm; (4) there was not a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice in the prosecutor’s closing argument; and (5) the verdicts of murder in the first degree are fully consonant with justice. View "Commonwealth v. Veiovis" on Justia Law

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A patient who qualifies for the medical use of marijuana and has been terminated from her employment because she tested positive for marijuana as a result of her lawful medical use of marijuana may seek a civil remedy against her employer through claims of handicap discrimination in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B. The Supreme Judicial Court thus reversed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim for handicap discrimination and related claims under chapter 151B but affirmed the allowance of the motion to dismiss as to the counts claiming an implied private cause of action under the medical marijuana act and wrongful termination in violation of public policy, holding that there is no implied statutory private cause of action under the medical marijuana act and that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. View "Barbuto v. Advantage Sales & Marketing, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on a theory of felony-murder, as well as unlawful possession of a firearm and willful interference with a criminal investigation, and the judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. The court also declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s murder conviction under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) the judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a required finding of not guilty of murder int the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial based on the Commonwealth’s failure to disclose allegedly exculpatory evidence. View "Commonwealth v. Cooley" on Justia Law

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During an armed home invasion at a Dudley apartment, Muller and an accomplice, who subsequently pleaded guilty, shot and killed two occupants and critically wounded a third. Muller was convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree, on the theories of deliberate premeditation and felony-murder, armed assault with intent to murder, armed home invasion and unlawful possession of a firearm. At trial, Muller admitted that he had shot the victims; his primary defense was that he lacked criminal responsibility because of mental illness and cocaine addiction. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed. While the jury instructions were erroneous in failing to clarify that the voluntary consumption of drugs or alcohol does not preclude the defense of lack of criminal responsibility where the mental disease or defect, standing alone, causes the defendant to lose the substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law, the error did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice. Although the instruction regarding the inference of sanity was error, the judge ameliorated the error where he specifically instructed the jury that they did not have to draw such an inference, especially in light of the jury's view of the expert medical testimony. View "Commonwealth v. Muller" on Justia Law