Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge’s order vacating the district court judge’s Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 58A (58A) pretrial detention order of David Barnes and affirmed the denial of William Scione’s petition for extraordinary relief, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 275, 23A (23A) does not qualify as a predicate offense under section 58A in its current form and that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, 102A (102A) qualified in this case. Barnes was charged with violating section 23A, and Scione was charged with violating section 102A. In both cases, the Commonwealth moved to detain the defendants pursuant to section 58A, the pretrial detention statute. The Commonwealth’s motions were allowed and the defendants were ordered held. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge’s order vacating the pretrial detention order of Barnes and affirmed the denial of Scione’s petition for extraordinary relief, holding (1) rape aggravated by age difference, section 23A, does not qualify as a predicate offense under section 58A; and (2) use of an incendiary device in violation of section 102A qualifies as a predicate offense under section 58A. View "Scione v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of drugs found within a locked glove compartment, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and that Defendant was not deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. In denying Defendant’s motion to suppress the motion judge found that the police had probable cause to arrest Defendant for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana and that the search of the vehicle was justified as an inventory search. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge was warranted in finding that police had probable cause to believe that Defendant had operated a motor vehicle while impaired; and (2) while the motion judge’s decision to deny the motion to suppress was improper on the grounds that the police conducted a lawful inventory search, the officers had authority to search the vehicle, pursuant to the automobile exception, for evidence pertaining to the offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. View "Commonwealth v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion for release from unlawful confinement and for a new sentencing hearing, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the judge did not abuse his discretion in imposing a sentence of incarceration following Defendant’s repeated addiction-related violations of probation over a period of several years. Defendant requested the sentence in order to participate in a secure residential drug treatment program. Several months after serving her sentence, however, Defendant sought release from what she termed as an unlawful restraint, as well as a new sentencing hearing. The motion was denied. On appeal, Defendant argued that, in setting the length of Defendant's sentence, the judge abused his discretion when he took into account the time requirements of the rehabilitative program Defendant wished to enter. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse his discretion in these limited circumstances. View "Commonwealth v. Plasse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that none of Defendant’s arguments on appeal warranted reversal of his convictions. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment; (2) the judge did not improperly curtail Defendant’s cross-examination of two witnesses; (3) the motion judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial; and (4) there was no basis to set aside or reduce the verdict of murder in the first degree. View "Commonwealth v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court allowing the Commonwealth’s petition for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 in this discovery dispute, holding that relief was properly granted. Defendant was charged with several offenses, and a judge in that court granted in part his motion for discovery from the Commonwealth. In its petition, the Commonwealth disputed a portion of that order that required the prosecutor to produce certain exculpatory information from the personnel files of the Boston Police Department and its internal affairs division. The single justice allowed the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice properly vacated the portion of the discovery order to the extent that it required the prosecutor to look through the internal affairs division file and/or other personnel files of the police department where the materials were not in the possession, custody, or control of the Commonwealth. View "Commonwealth v. Cruz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition for equitable relief, holding that the relief sought by Petitioner was not available. Petitioner was convicted of armed robbery and escape. His consecutive committed sentences were to be served “from and after” sentences he was serving in federal prison in connection with offenses committed in the District of Columbia. After Petitioner was granted parole from federal prison he refused to be released because he did not want to return to Massachusetts to serve his “from and after” sentences. Although Petitioner had not yet begun serving his Massachusetts sentences, his petition sought an order requiring that he be considered for parole. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the relief Petitioner sought was not available because, among other things, he was not currently serving his Massachusetts sentences. View "Murray v. Massachusetts Parole Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the district court’s order dismissing a complaint issued against Defendant charging him with two counts of criminal harassment, holding that the series of acts outlined in the complaint that were attributed to Defendant satisfied the elements of criminal harassment. In allowing Defendant’s motion to dismiss, the district court judge concluded that the complaint did not allege three qualifying acts to support a charge of criminal harassment as to either named victim. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the complaint supplied probable cause to charge Defendant with two counts of criminal harassment. View "Commonwealth v. Brennan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to grant extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing argument and that the supplemental instructions provided to the jury in response to a question the jury submitted during deliberations were not in error. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor’s method of presenting grant jury testimony was flawed and that erroneous jury instructions entitled him to a reversal of his convictions. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the prosecutor’s method of presenting the grand jury testimony was not in error and that the instruction the judge gave in response to the jury’s question was a correct statement of the law. View "Commonwealth v. Andrade" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying, without a hearing, Petitioner’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and application for “direct appellate review” purportedly under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that neither the petition nor the application was the proper means for Petitioner to get the review that he sought of his conviction. After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of rape and of being a habitual offender. In both his petition and application, Petitioner raised issued related to the habitual offender conviction. After a single justice denied relief, Petitioner appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the issues raised were ones for which Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy by way of direct appeal, and therefore, the single justice did not err in denying both the petition and the application. View "Barbosa v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a criminal proceeding, the Supreme Judicial Court discerned no reversible error but, under the unique circumstances of this case, exercised its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree to murder in the second degree, holding that a conviction of murder in the second degree was more consonant with justice. Specifically, the Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to prove that the murder was deliberately premeditated; (2) trial counsel’s error in failing to admit Defendant’s medical records in evidence did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (3) an error in the prosecutor’s closing argument did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (4) where there was nothing to suggest that there was any ill will between Defendant and the victim and evidence of Defendant’s intoxication, Defendant’s first-degree murder verdict is vacated and a verdict of guilty of murder in the second degree shall be entered. View "Commonwealth v. Salazar" on Justia Law