Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Defendant was charged with operating while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, second offense, and a marked lanes violation. The charges stemmed from a single vehicle accident in which the vehicle Defendant was driving rolled over. Defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude from her medical records evidence of a blood alcohol test taken after she was transported to the hospital based on her right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment. A district court judge allowed the motion. A single justice vacated the trial judge’s order allowing the motion in limine and ordered that the blood alcohol test evidence was admissible. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that it was “eminently logical” that the blood alcohol test administered to Defendant was performed as a routine medical practice in the course of Defendant’s treatment following the accident. View "Commonwealth v. Ackerman" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on the theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and the trial court’s denial of his motion for a new trial and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding (1) Defendant received constitutionally effective assistance of counsel at trial; (2) Defendant was given a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense; and (3) the trial judge did not deprive Defendant of his right to a fair trial by denying Defendant’s request to give a voluntary manslaughter instruction. View "Commonwealth v. Gulla" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty, arson of a dwelling house, and violating an abuse prevention order. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the convictions and declined to reduce the degree of guilt or to order a new trial, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions of murder in the first degree and arson; (2) the testimony of two expert witnesses did not violate Defendant’s right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment; (3) Defendant’s custodial statements to police were obtained with a valid Miranda waiver and were voluntary; and (4) the motion judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial without an evidentiary hearing. View "Commonwealth v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Thomas Finneran, former Speaker of the House, pleaded guilty in federal district court to one count of obstruction of justice. The conviction stemmed from false testimony that Finneran had provided in relation to a federal court action challenging the 2001 redistricting act. Immediately after Finneran’s conviction, the State Retirement Board ceased payments of Finneran’s pension on the ground of his conviction under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(4). The hearing officer concluded that Finneran’s crime required the forfeiture of his pension under the statute because he had “been convicted of a criminal offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position.” A municipal court judge reversed, concluding that there was no direct link between Finneran’s conviction and his position as a House Member and/or Speaker. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Finneran’s conviction of obstruction of justice was a “violation of the laws applicable to his office or position” and, therefore, required the statutory forfeiture of his pension. View "State Board of Retirement v. Finneran" on Justia Law

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After a joint jury trial, Defendants - John Squires and Steven Angier - were convicted of walking on a railroad track and possession of burglarious instruments. Defendants separately appealed, arguing, inter alia, that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the convictions of possession of burglarious implements. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgments with respect to Defendants’ convictions of possession of burglarious instruments, holding that the Commonwealth failed to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt of all of the elements of possession of burglarious instruments, and therefore, the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. View "Commonwealth v. Squires" on Justia Law
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In 2012, the assessor for the city of Attleboro determined that Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Inc. (Shrine) owed property taxes in the amount of $92,292.98. The Shrine filed an application for abatement, which the city’s board of assessors denied. The Shrine appealed, arguing its property was exempt under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, Eleventh (Clause Eleventh), the exemption for “houses of religious worship.” The Appellate Tax Board divided the Shrine’s property into eight distinct portions, determined that the first four portions of the property were exempt under Clause Eleventh, that the fifth portion was only partially exempt, and that the last three were fully taxable. The Shrine appealed these latter four determinations. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the board erred when it found that the Shrine’s welcome center and maintenance building were not exempt under Clause Eleventh; and (2) the former convent that the Shrine leased to a nonprofit organization for use as a safe house for battered women and the wildlife sanctuary that was exclusively managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society in accordance with a conservation easement were not exempt under Clause Eleventh. View "Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Attleboro" on Justia Law

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After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was convicted of wantonly or recklessly permitting another person to commit an assault and battery that resulted in bodily injury to her infant daughter. The injury was recklessly inflicted by Defendant’s boy friend after Defendant left her daughter in his sole care while she took a shower. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court, holding that the evidence was not sufficient as a matter of law to find that Defendant’s conduct involved a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would result to her daughter, and therefore, Defendant’s conviction of wantonly or recklessly permitting an assault and battery on the victim cannot be sustained. View "Commonwealth v. Dragotta" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff, a shareholder of a Corporation, made a demand for corporate records pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156D. 16.02(b), claiming that he needed to inspect the records in order to investigate his allegation that the board of directors had committed a breach of its fiduciary duty of oversight. After the Corporation rejected the demand Plaintiff commenced an action in the superior court seeking an order compelling the Corporation to make the requested corporate records available to Plaintiff. The trial judge dismissed the complaint with prejudice, determining that Plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of showing a proper purpose to inspect corporate records under section 16.02(b). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s claim for inspection and remanded, holding that the trial judge applied too demanding a standard in determining whether Plaintiff had a proper purpose. View "Chitwood v. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law
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This certified questions in this case arose out of divorce proceedings pending in Connecticut between Wife and Husband, who was the beneficiary of a Massachusetts irrevocable trust. The Connecticut Supreme Court certified three questions to the Supreme Judicial Court concerning the authority of a trustee to distribute substantially all of the assets of an irrevocable trust into another trust. The Supreme Judicial Court did not answer the second question but answered the remaining questions as follows: (1) under Massachusetts law, the terms of the Paul John Ferri, Jr. Trust (1983 Trust) empowered its trustees to distribute substantially all of its assets to the Declaration of Trust for Paul John Ferri, Jr.; and (2) under Massachusetts law, a court, in interpreting whether the 1983 Trust’s settlor intended to permit decanting to another trust, should consider an affidavit of the settler offered to establish what he intended when he created the 1983 Trust. View "Ferri v. Powell-Ferri" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and felony-murder. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction and declined to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding (1) portions of the prosecutor’s closing argument were improper, but the impermissible statements, in the context of the entire argument, did not require a new trial; and (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion by allowing the prosecutor to introduce evidence of uncharged misconduct by Defendant for a nonpropensity purpose, and the probative value of the uncharged misconduct evidence outweighed the risk of unfair prejudice. View "Commonwealth v. Rutherford" on Justia Law
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