Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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In these two cases, the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) contended that when it unsuccessfully seeks after July 23, 2013 to reclassify a level two sex offender as a level three sex offender, that individual is reclassified a level two sex offender for purposes of Moe v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 6 NE 3d 530 (Mass. 2014), and therefore, SORB may publish the individual’s registry information on the Internet. In Moe, the Supreme Judicial Court permanently enjoined SORB from publishing on the Internet the registry information of any individual who was classified as a level two sex offender on or before July 12, 2013 unless that individual is later reclassified a level two or level three sex offender. In the instant cases, a hearing officer denied SORB’s motion for reclassification and retained the earlier level two classification. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded to the superior court for the issuance of a permanent injunction barring publication of each plaintiff’s registry information on the Internet unless and until the offender is reclassified a level three sex offender, holding that, under Moe, a sex offender is “reclassified” only where a hearing officer allows SORB’s motion to increase his classification based on new information indicating an increased risk of sexual recidivism. View "Doe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 326573 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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Defendant was determined to be a sexually dangerous person (SDP) pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A and was committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center for an indeterminate period of from one day to life. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a constitutionally inadequate basis for commitment as an SDP. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment and order for Defendant’s civil commitment as an SDP, holding (1) an ASPD diagnosis is adequate to satisfy the definitional requirements of an SDP where the Commonwealth also proves that, as a result of the ASPD, the individual is likely to engage in sexual offenses if not civilly committed; and (2) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motions in limine to exclude expert testimony regarding his likelihood of reoffense and in precluding the admission of risk category labels for the Static-99R risk assessment tool. View "Commonwealth v. George" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The court held (1) while not overwhelming, the evidence presented at trial was sufficient as a matter of law to support Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, and therefore, there was no error in the judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a required finding; but (2) the trial judge’s failure to require an explanation of the prosecutor’s peremptory challenge of a prospective juror, who was African-American, was error, and because the error constituted structural error for which prejudice is presumed, the case must be remanded to the superior court for a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Since 2009, AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. (ASGCC) has been operating a free hypodermic needle access program in a village in Barnstable. The Town of Barnstable ordered the cessation of the program, asserting that ASGCC was in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, 27 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111, 215. In response to the Town’s cease and desist order, ASGCC filed this action seeking injunctive relief and a declaration that its nonsale needle access program was not statutorily prohibited. The superior court judge reported the question to the Appeals Court, and the Supreme Judicial Court allowed ASGCC’s application for direct appellate review. The court remanded the matter to the superior court for entry of a declaration that neither statute prohibits ASGCC from engaging in free distribution of hypodermic needles and an injunction permanently enjoining enforcement of the Town’s order to cease and desist, holding that the plain language of the statutes does not proscribe free distribution of hypodermic needs by a private individual or organization such as ASGCC that does not operate a program implemented by the Department of Public Health. View "AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. v. Town of Barnstable" on Justia Law

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The trial judge erred by permitting the Commonwealth to respond to Defendant’s affirmative defense of entrapment by introducing evidence of three prior convictions despite Defendant’s objection that they were too stale to be probative of his predisposition to commit the crime. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for distribution of heroin, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, the trial judge erred in admitting Defendant’s prior bad acts underlying the three prior convictions where the acts all took place at least nineteen years before the crime charged in this case; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "Commonwealth v. Denton" on Justia Law

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Once a police officer has completed the investigation of a defendant’s civil traffic violations and the facts do not give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the officer is required to permit the defendant to drive away. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized from the trunk of his vehicle, arguing that state police troopers and local police officers unreasonably detained him beyond the time required to effectuate a traffic stop. A superior court denied the motion to suppress. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that because the officer’s investigation of civil traffic violations did not give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the officer did not have a legitimate basis to justify his investigation of criminal drug activity, and Defendant should have been allowed to drive away. View "Commonwealth v. Cordero" on Justia Law

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Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A requires three convictions of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (OUI) before a defendant can be held without bail pending trial, and therefore, the statute does not permit the Commonwealth to seek pretrial detention when a defendant has two prior OUI convictions and is charged with OUI, third offense. Here, Defendant was charged with two indictments for OUI, third offense. The trial court held a dangerousness hearing pursuant to section 58A. The judge concluded that Defendant was dangerous and ordered him held without bail pending trial. On Defendant’s motion, the judge reported the question at issue in this case. The Supreme Judicial Court answered the question in the negative, holding that section 58A requires three, not two, prior OUI convictions. View "Commonwealth v. Dayton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held in this case that the principles of double jeopardy bar the imposition of a consecutive sentence of eight years’ probation, imposed in 2015 by a judge who was not the plea judge, where Defendant originally had been sentenced in 2005 to an eight-year term of probation concurrent with his ten-year prison sentence. Specifically, Defendant was not resentenced to a term of consecutive probation when the original sentencing judge vacated the community parole supervision for life portion of his sentence. The court remanded the matter to the superior court for entry of an order dismissing the Commonwealth’s motion to correct and clarify the sentence as moot on the ground that Defendant’s sentence had been completed before the motion was filed. View "Commonwealth v. Pacheco" on Justia Law

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In appropriate circumstances a judge has discretion to impose a concurrent State prison sentence nunc pro tunc to the commencement of a house of correction sentence then being served. Defendant appealed from an order denying his motion for credit for time served in a house of correction for one set of offenses while he was awaiting trial on a second-unrelated set of offenses. The appeals court affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court judge’s order denying the motion for jail credit, holding that although Defendant was not entitled as of right to the credit he sought, the superior court judge failed to consider whether the circumstances warranted ordering Defendant’s concurrent State prison sentence to commence nunc pro tunc to commencement of the house of correction sentence. View "Commonwealth v. Lydon" on Justia Law

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In 1969, Defendant was convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree and two counts of assault with intent to rob. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed. After the denial of Defendant’s seventh motion for a new trial Defendant sought leave to appeal pursuant to the gatekeeper provision of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. A single justice of the court denied such leave, concluding that the motion failed to present a “new and substantial question.” The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed Defendant’s appeal, holding that, despite Defendant’s assertion, Defendant’s appeal ought not be permitted to proceed despite the longstanding rule that the decision of the gatekeeper is “final and unreviewable.” View "Commonwealth v. Robinson" on Justia Law