Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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A landlord (Defendant) was convicted of assault and battery for pushing a Muslim tenant down a flight of stairs. Defendant was sentenced to a two-year term of incarceration, six months to serve, with the balance suspended for a period of two years. As special conditions of her probation, Defendant was required to provide a written disclosure to prospective tenants that she had been convicted of assaulting a tenant and to attend an introductory class on Islam. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in imposing the sentence of incarceration or in requiring Defendant to provide written disclosure to prospective tenants as a condition of probation; (2) Defendant’s constitutional objections to attending the class on Islam as a condition of probation were waived; and (3) the remainder of Defendant’s allegations of error failed. View "Commonwealth v. Obi" on Justia Law
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After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress a firearm and statements he made after his arrest, arguing that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop of him in connection with a breaking and entering that had occurred in a nearby home approximately thirty minutes earlier. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the conviction, holding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress because the police lacked reasonable suspicion for the investigatory stop. Remanded. View "Commonwealth v. Warren" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of, among other crimes, murder in the first degree on a theory of felony murder, based on the predicate felony of armed robbery. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s armed robbery conviction and affirmed his remaining convictions, holding (1) Defendant’s armed robbery conviction was the predicate felony for his felony-murder conviction, the only theory on which the jury found Defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, and therefore, the armed robbery conviction was duplicative; and (2) no other prejudicial error occurred during Defendant’s trial, and there was no other basis to exercise the Court’s authority pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Carter" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction, holding (1) the trial court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s failure to properly perform a breathalyzer test after giving consent, as the evidence was not inadmissible as refusal evidence; (2) the admission of the police-appointed interpreter’s English language version of Defendant’s statements did not violate the rule against hearsay, as the interpreter acted as Defendant’s agent under the circumstances of this case; (3) Defendant’s unpreserved confrontation claim was unavailing; (4) the evidence was sufficient to establish Defendant’s impairment; and (5) there was no prejudicial error in the jury instructions. View "Commonwealth v. Adonsoto" on Justia Law

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Defendants in these two criminal cases were charged in the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) with a number of felonies. The BMC judges scheduled probable cause hearings for Defendants to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to bind them over to the Superior Court for trial and ordered the Commonwealth to provide Defendants with discovery in advance of those hearings. The Commonwealth objected to the discovery orders, arguing that the BMC and the District Court Department are not explicitly authorized to order discovery in preparation for probable cause hearings. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) judges of the BMC may, in their discretion, order preheating discovery; and (2) the judges in this case did not abuse their discretion by issuing the discovery orders. View "Commonwealth v. Teixeira" on Justia Law
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Two individuals (“the Sureties”) acted as sureties for Defendant and posted bail on his behalf. The Sureties filed a motion for return of bail on the basis that Defendant could not appear for a hearing because he was in federal custody on an immigration and customs enforcement detainer. The motion was denied. After Defendant failed to appear for the hearing, the judge ordered the bail forfeited. The Sureties filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 in the county court asking the court to order return of bail. A single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that this case did not present the type of exceptional circumstance that requires the exercise of the Court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Commonwealth v. Baratieri" on Justia Law
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In 1993, Defendant was convicted of first degree murder. Defendant’s convictions were affirmed on appeal. After unsuccessfully filing numerous postconviction petitions, Defendant filed in the county court a petition in the nature of mandamus pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 5. A single justice denied the petition, concluding that mandamus relief was not appropriate because Defendant had another adequate remedy. Defendant filed a notice of appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, regardless of whether the Court considered the petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 5 or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, Defendant was not entitled to relief. View "Vinnie v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
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Petitioner was the defendant in a summary process action in the Housing Court. In 1993, the Appeals Court affirmed. In the years since then, Petitioner repeatedly sought to challenge the foreclosure that led to the summary process action, without success. In 2015, Petitioner filed a motion seeking to vacate the Appeals Court’s 1993 decision. The Appeals Court denied relief. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 in the county court. A single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner failed to prosecute her appeal, and therefore, her appeal could be dismissed on this basis alone; and (2) Petitioner’s claims failed on the merits. View "Eresian v. Merrill Lynch Credit Corp." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and armed robbery. The Supreme Court affirmed. This appeal concerned Defendant’s second motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The superior court judge allowed the motion for a new trial, ruling that the newly discovered evidence was material, credible, and would have been a real factor in the jury’s deliberations such that this was a case where justice had not been done. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the motion judge did not abuse her discretion in ruling that the newly discovered evidence warranted a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Ellis" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation. Defendant appealed his conviction and also sought relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E asking that his sentence be revised. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in not allowing the admission of testimony by an expert on eyewitness identification or in allowing the admission of testimony concerning a stocking cap that was seized from a vehicle Defendant was driving several months after the shooting; and (2) there was no reason to exercise the Court’s authority to grant extraordinary relief, but because Defendant’s pending motion to revise and revoke his sentence was timely filed but has not been acted upon, the matter is remanded to the superior court for consideration of the motion. View "Commonwealth v. Snyder" on Justia Law
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