Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Defendants, Charles Mendez and Tacuma Massie, were convicted of murder in the first degree, armed robbery, and other offenses. Both defendants were charged on a theory of felony murder. Each defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendants’ convictions and declined to exercise its extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendants’ motions to suppress evidence seized as a result of a warrantless stop that took place soon after the shooting; (2) the motion judge did not err in deciding to join for trial certain charges; (3) two aspects of the prosecutor’s closing argument challenged by Defendants were not error; (4) there was sufficient evidence to convict Massie of the armed robbery and felony murder; and (5) Defendants’ Moffett claims were unavailing. View "Commonwealth v. Mendez" on Justia Law

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Samuel S., a juvenile, was adjudicated a youthful offender and a delinquent juvenile as the result of a single sexual offense. As part of his sentence, Samuel was committed to the Department of Youth Services. The juvenile court judge also ordered Samuel to register as a sex offender and to submit to GPS monitoring, stating that both consequences were “mandatory.” The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judge’s decision, holding (1) the pertinent section of the sex offender registration statute required the judge to make an individualized determination whether Samuel must register as a sex offender because he was not “sentenced to immediate confinement” within the meaning of the statute; and (2) the GPS monitoring statute, as interpreted by the Supreme Judicial Court in Commonwealth v. Hanson H., does not require youthful offenders to submit to GPS monitoring. View "Commonwealth v. Samuel S." on Justia Law
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After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was found guilty of breaking and entering in the daytime with the intent to commit a felony and larceny of property over $250. Defendant’s fingerprint at the crime scene constituted the only identification evidence. On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the evidence was not sufficient to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Defendant left his fingerprint at the time of the break-in, and therefore, there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions. View "Commonwealth v. French" on Justia Law
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This case concerned the arrival in Massachusetts of four minor siblings from a Nepalese refugee camp through a minor refugee program. The children’s parents subsequently arrived, but had very limited contact with the children after their arrival. The Department of Children and Families petitioned the probate and family court to free the children for adoption by terminating parental rights. The mother moved to deny the petition. The judge denied the motion and reported the matter to the appeals court, asking whether the Code of Federal Regulations allows the Department to petition for termination of parental rights under the circumstances of this case. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judge’s denial of the mother’s motion to deny the Department’s petition, holding that the Code of Federal Regulations allows the Department to proceed to seek a termination of parental rights where unaccompanied refugee minors are present in the United States pursuant to the minor refugee program and the parents arrive in the United States but make no attempt to reunite with their children. View "In re Adoption of Yadira" on Justia Law
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This lawsuit arose from the explosion on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon that caused 4.9 million barrels of oil to flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Defendants, environmental activists, contributed an article appearing in an Internet Web site that contained criticism of Plaintiff, a scientific consulting firm retained to assess the toxic effects of the oil spill on cleanup workers. Plaintiff brought claims for defamation in Massachusetts and in New York. Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss the Massachusetts suit under the anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. The superior court denied the motion, concluding that Defendants failed to meet their threshold burden of showing that the suit was based exclusively on the exercise of their right of petition under the Constitution. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Defendants met their threshold burden because they were engaged in protected petitioning activity; and (2) Plaintiff could not show that such petitioning was devoid of reasonable factual support or arguable basis in law and therefore could not defeat the special motion. View "Cardno ChemRisk, LLC v. Foytlin" on Justia Law
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A grand jury returned indictments against Defendant on various charges, including three counts of armed assault with intent to murder and murder in the second degree. Defendant moved to suppress the identification of him by an eyewitness, Brianna Johnson, and also moved to suppress Johnson’s identification of a firearm as the one used by Defendant in the commission of the crime. The motion judge denied the motion to suppress the identification of Defendant but allowed the motion to suppress the identification of the firearm. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, the failure to detectives showing a photographic array to the eyewitness to use the protocol outlined in Commonwealth v. Silva-Santiago did not warrant suppression of Defendant’s identification of Defendant; (2) the use of a simultaneous rather than a sequential display of photographs in an array was not unnecessarily suggestive; and (3) the motion judge did not abuse his discretion in ruling the identification of the firearm as inadmissible under the common law of evidence due to suggestive police questioning and subsequent police confirmation. View "Commonwealth v. Thomas" on Justia Law
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Defendant was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge arose from Defendant’s behavior as a patient in the psychiatric area of the emergency department at a Boston hospital. Defendant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed Defendant’s conviction, vacated the judgment, and remanded to the municipal court for entry of a judgment of dismissal, holding that the evidence was not sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant consciously disregarded a “substantial and unjustifiable risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.” View "Commonwealth v. Accime" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on the theory of deliberate premeditation. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and declined to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding (1) the trial judge did not err by permitting the Commonwealth’s expert witness to opine that Defendant’s behavior was planned and goal-directed; (2) the trial judge did not erroneously permit the same expert to state the bases of her opinion on direct examination; and (3) the prosecutor did not make statements not supported by the evidence during closing arguments. View "Commonwealth v. Goddard" on Justia Law
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Alexander Soto was a juvenile when he was indicted for murder in the first degree and related offenses. The superior court dismissed the non-murder indictments, concluding that the nonmurder charges must first be brought in the juvenile court by a complaint for delinquency or a youthful offender indictment prior to joinder with the murder indictments. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order allowing Soto’s motion to dismiss the non-murder indictments, holding that, when a juvenile is indicted for murder, non-murder offenses that are properly joined with the murder indictment must be brought in the superior court. View "Commonwealth v. Soto" on Justia Law

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During the divorce proceedings of Husband and Wife, Wife did not pursue her claim for alimony. Four years after the divorce judgment, Wife sought and obtained an alimony award. Both parties appealed. On appeal, both parties agreed that the judge erred by commencing the durational limit of alimony on the date of the first temporary alimony payment but disagreed on the appropriate commencement date. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case with instructions to reevaluate the alimony judgment, holding (1) under the circumstances, the durational limit of general term alimony under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 49(b) starts to run on the date that the alimony was awarded, not on the date of the divorce judgment or on the date temporary alimony was awarded; (2) the income earned from overtime pay must be considered in making an initial alimony award determination under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 34, regardless of whether that determination is made before or after the divorce judgment; and (3) where a judge awards alimony under section 34, the judge must specifically address the issue of health insurance coverage for the recipient spouse. View "Snow v. Snow" on Justia Law
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