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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree and declined to exercise its extraordinary power to set aside or reduce the verdict under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that Defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel failed and that the trial judge did not commit reversible error in her rulings. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial judge did not err in admitting portions of a recorded police interview; (2) the trial judge properly admitted testimony regarding an argument a witness had with the victim; (3) the judge did not err in disallowing defense counsel’s line of questioning to a witness; and (4) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of trial counsel during the proceedings below. View "Commonwealth v. Cruzado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that a conditional guilty plea is permissible if it is entered with the consent of the superior court and the Commonwealth and identifies the specific ruling from which the defendant intends to appeal. After noting that Mass. R. Crim. P. 12 does not specifically authorize a conditional guilty plea, and nothing in the language of Rule 12 or its amendments contemplates this approach, and neither the Rule nor any statute prohibits a conditional guilty plea, the Supreme Judicial Court, in exercise of its superintendence power, responded to a reported question from a superior court judge on the issue. The Court decided that a conditional guilty plea is permissible so long as it is entered with the consent of the court and the Commonwealth, and the defendant specifies the pretrial motion from which he seeks to appeal at the time the plea is entered. The Court asked the standing advisory committee on the rules of criminal procedure to propose a suitable amendment to Rule 12 to delineate the requirements for conditional guilty pleas. View "Commonwealth v. Gomez" on Justia Law

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DefendantMitchell Bowen appeals his conviction for sexual assault following his guilty plea, arguing that during the plea colloquy the trial court failed to comply with Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f) and did not establish a factual basis for the charge. The Vermont Supreme Court held that the standard for reviewing Rule 11(f) challenges in direct-appeal cases was the same as that used for challenges brought in post-conviction relief (PCR) proceedings. Under that standard, the Court concluded the colloquy in this case did not comply with the requirements of Rule 11(f), and reversed and remanded. View "Vermont v. Bowen" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ernest Phillips filed an interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s denial of his motion to accept a plea agreement after lengthy litigation in the criminal division concerning defendant’s alleged sexual contact with two minors between 2012 and 2014. In November 2012, the Vermont State Police investigated allegations that defendant had sexual contact with two female minors pursuant to a complaint received from a dance school where defendant worked as an instructor. The complaint alleged defendant had engaged in sexual contact with a seventeen-year-old student and a fifteen-year-old student. On appeal of the denial of his motion, defendant argued the trial court accepted his proposed plea agreement and therefore could not subsequently reject it. In addition, he argued the trial court’s reasons for rejecting the proposed plea agreement were legally invalid. The Vermont Supreme Court granted permission for the interlocutory appeal on the following questions: (1) may a defendant waive the right to a direct appeal as a condition of a plea agreement; (2) may a defendant enter a plea to a reduced criminal charge based upon a statute that did not exist at the time of the commission of the original offense; and (3) is the trial court authorized to reject a plea agreement after accepting it. The Court answered the first question in the affirmative and therefore did not reach the second question. The third question was moot because the Court held the trial court never accepted the plea agreement. Accordingly, the case was remanded back to the trial court to reconsider whether to accept or reject the plea agreement. View "Vermont v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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Defendant Amanda Stuart appealed her probation revocation arising from two probation violations. In May 2016, defendant pled guilty to negligent operation of a vehicle and reckless endangerment. The plea agreement called for concurrent one-to-twelve-month sentences, suspended with probation, to run consecutively to a sentence defendant was already serving for a past infraction. This left defendant on a “dual status” - on furlough in connection with a previous sentence and on probation for her new charges. Defendant’s probation conditions in connection with the May 2016 conviction included conditions requiring that she not buy, have, or use any regulated drugs unless prescribed by a doctor, complete the CRASH program, complete substance abuse counseling, and actively participate in and complete the reparative probation program. Contrary to the parties’ expectations at the time of the plea, defendant was not released after her May 2016 plea, but, rather, remained incarcerated until November 2016 because she could not meet a condition of her previous sentence that she secure housing. On April 17, 2017, defendant was reincarcerated for violating the furlough conditions in connection with her prior sentence after testing positive for benzodiazepines. On appeal, defendant argued, among other things, that the State presented insufficient admissible evidence to support the violations upon which the revocation was based. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed and reversed the trial court’s revocation of her probation. View "Vermont v. Stuart" on Justia Law

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The four petitioners in these consolidated appeals all pled guilty to criminal offenses between 2005 and 2013. After the appeal period had passed, they initiated collateral challenges to their convictions by filing post-conviction relief (PCR) petitions and argued that the plea colloquies in their criminal cases did not comply with Rule 11(f). The PCR courts denied their petitions and all petitioners appealed. While the appeals of those petitions were pending, the Vermont Supreme Court decided In re Bridger, 2017 VT 79, holding that Rule 11(f) required a plea colloquy to include the defendant’s personal admission of the facts underlying the offense, that oral or written stipulations cannot satisfy the requirement, and that substantial compliance does not apply in determining whether the colloquy was satisfactory. Petitioners sought to apply the Bridger decision to their cases. The Supreme Court concluded Bridger announced a new criminal procedural rule and that the new rule did not apply to cases where direct review was concluded at the time Bridger was decided. Thus, in those cases, pending or future collateral proceedings must be evaluated under pre-Bridger standards. Under the then- existing standard, the Court affirmed the decisions in In re Barber, In re Smith, and In re Burke, and reversed and remanded the decision in In re Rousseau. View "In re Kenneth Barber, Jr., Theodore C. Smith, Jr., Danielle M. Rousseau, John Burke" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after he pleaded guilty to several drug-related charges. On remand, in light of new Senate Bill No. 180, which amended the sentencing enhancements included in Health and Safety Code section 11370.2, the Court of Appeal vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. The court struck all of the section 11370.2, subdivision (c) enhancements. View "People v. McKenzie" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that its order denying a certificate of appealability (COA) to petitioner in this case should not be reconsidered. The court held that petitioner was not entitled to a COA for two distinct reasons: first, his claim arose from the rule announced in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 580 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 855 (2017), and that rule did not apply retroactively; and second, he has failed to show cause to overcome his procedural default. View "Tharpe v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence of 120 months’ imprisonment followed by lifetime supervised release imposed in connection with Defendant’s plea of guilty to possession of child pornography, holding that Defendant’s sentence was without procedural error and was substantively reasonable. After noting that even assuming, favorably to Defendant that the abuse of discretion standard applied, the First Circuit held that Defendant failed to establish any abuse of discretion on appeal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court adequately explained why it imposed a condition of lifetime supervised release; (2) Defendant’s within-guidelines sentence of lifetime supervised release was substantively reasonable; and (3) Defendant’s ten-year term of imprisonment was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Harrison" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the 121-month sentence imposed in connection with Defendant's plea of guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, holding that the district court correctly calculated Defendant’s Guidelines sentencing range (GSR). On appeal, Defendant raised two procedural challenges to the district court’s calculation of his GSR. After reviewing the record, which showed that Defendant maintained a false identity throughout his criminal proceedings, the First Circuit affirmed the sentence, holding that the district court imposed a plainly warranted sentence enhancement for obstruction of justice and did not err in denying Defendant a credit for acceptance of responsibility. View "United States v. Perez-Crisostomo" on Justia Law