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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s convictions of two charges of possession of the ingredients to make an incendiary device or substance with the intent to do so, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, 102(a), and remanded the matter for entry of required findings of not guilty, holding that the evidence presented at trial was not sufficient to establish every element of the Commonwealth’s case. Specifically, the court held that the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to establish that Defendant was without lawful authority to possess three bags of different powders or the incidendiary substance, thermite, that the Commonwealth asserted that Defendant intended to make. View "Commonwealth v. Aldana" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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To the extent that field sobriety tests (FSTs) are relevant to establish a driver’s balance, coordination, mental acuity, and other skills required to operate a motor vehicle safely, FSTs are admissible at trial as observations of the police officer conducting the assessment. However, neither a police officer nor a lay witness who has not been qualified as an expert may offer an opinion as to whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana. Defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana. Defendant filed a motion for a Daubert-Lanigan hearing seeking to challenge the admissibility of evidence concerning his performance on FSTs conducted after the stop. The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the matter and then answered the reported questions as set forth above and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. Gerhardt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue in this case was the construction of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156D, 14.30, the corporate dissolution statute, which allows a shareholder to petition a judge of the superior court to dissolve a corporation in the event of a deadlock between its directors. Plaintiff and Defendant were the sole shareholders and directors of a corporation. Plaintiff filed a petition pursuant to the corporate dissolution statute seeking to dissolve the corporation. After a jury-waived trial, Plaintiff also filed a separate claim for contempt of court. Defendant counterclaimed. A judge rejected all of Plaintiff’s claims and Defendant’s counterclaims. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matters, holding (1) the impasse as to fundamental matters of corporate governance and operations existing under these circumstances gave rise to a state of “true deadlock” such that the remedy of dissolution provided by the statute was allowable; (2) because dissolution is a discretionary remedy, the superior court must make a determination as to whether it is the appropriate remedy under the circumstances; and (3) the superior court must consider the allegations raised in the complaint for contempt concerning conduct that occurred after the trial. View "Koshy v. Sachdev" on Justia Law

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A mother may intervene both on her own behalf and on behalf of her children in an eviction action brought by a landlord against the mother’s husband and their young children where the mother has lived with her family in the apartment throughout the tenancy and alleges domestic violence in the home, despite her not being a named tenant on the lease. The mother in this case (Mother) appealed from the denial by a judge of the housing court of her motion to intervene in a summary process action brought by Landlord. Because Mother’s husband did not appear, the judge entered a judgment of default. The Supreme Court vacated both the denial of the motion to intervene and the judgment of default and remanded the case, holding (1) Mother was permitted to assert affirmative defenses to the eviction action on behalf of herself and her children; and (2) the motion judge prematurely reached the merits of the case. View "Beacon Residential Management, LP v. R.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendants’ convictions of murder in the first degree and other offenses related to the home invasion but remanded for resentencing Swinkles Laporte’s convictions of home invasion and armed robbery while masked. The court held (1) there was no substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice arising from the failure of counsel to object to an in-court identification of Defendants - Laporte and Maxwell Wiggins - as the perpetrators; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Wiggins’ motions to sever and for a mistrial based on a previously suppressed out-of-court identification; (3) there was no reversible error in the trial court’s remaining challenged evidentiary rulings; (4) any error in the prosecutor’s closing argument did not influence the jury’s verdicts; but (5) Laporte’s nonmurder sentences are vacated and remanded for resentencing where Laporte’s murder sentence was revised because he was a juvenile at the time of the offense. View "Commonwealth v. Wiggins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A police officer, responding to a report of an unauthorized person at Milton High School, searched the defendant's backpack and discovered a firearm, money, and marijuana. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the police officer lacked a constitutionally permissible basis for the pat-frisk and the subsequent search. He was convicted of carrying a firearm without a license, G.L. c. 269, 10(a); carrying a dangerous weapon on school grounds, 269, 10(j); possession of a firearm without a firearm identification card, 269, 10(h); disturbing a school, 272, 40; and possession of a class D substance with intent to distribute, 94C, 32C. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated, stating that when a police officer conducts a pat-frisk, the applicable standard for assessing its constitutionality is reasonable articulable suspicion under Terry v. Ohio and that an officer's conduct in a school setting is governed by the traditional Fourth Amendment standard. Applying the Terry standard to this case, the officer lacked reasonable articulable suspicion that the defendant had committed a crime and the circumstances of the encounter did not warrant a reasonable belief that the defendant was armed and dangerous. Nor was the search permissible under any exception to the warrant requirement. View "Commonwealth v. Villagran" on Justia Law

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In setting the amount of bail for a defendant, a judge must consider the defendant’s financial resources but is not required to set bail in an amount the defendant can afford if other relevant considerations weigh more heavily than the defendant’s ability to prove the necessary security for his appearance at trial. In this case, Petitioner had been held in jail for more than three and one-half years because he had been unable to post bail in the amounts ordered by a superior court judge following his arrest and indictment for armed robbery while masked. Petitioner petitioned for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. A single justice denied the petition. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the superior court’s bail order violated his right to due process because the judge failed to give adequate consideration to his financial resources. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the judge did not consider Petitioner’s financial resources in setting the bail. The court remanded the matter with directions that the superior court judge conduct a new bail hearing for Petitioner in accord with the standards set forth in this opinion. View "Brangan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Where a juvenile is sentenced for nonmurder offenses and the aggregate time to be served prior to parole eligibility exceeds that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder, the sentence cannot be reconciled with article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights unless, after a hearing on the factors articulated in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the judgment makes a finding that the circumstances warrant treating the juvenile more harshly for parole purposes than a juvenile convicted of murder. Defendant was seventeen years old when he committed the offenses leading to his convictions for armed robbery, armed assault with intent to rob, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and related firearms offenses. The judge sentenced Defendant to an aggregate sentence of thirty-two and one-half years, with parole eligibility after twenty-seven and one-half years. Defendant later filed a motion for resentencing, arguing that the aggregate sentence violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and the cognate provision of article 26. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for a Miller hearing to determine whether Defendant’s sentence comported with the requirements of article 26. If not, then Defendant must be resentenced. View "Commonwealth v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of murder in the first degree and declined to grant relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction; (2) the judge did not abuse her discretion in admitting gang opinion testimony; (3) the prosecutor’s opening statement and closing argument were proper; (4) the judge did not allow inadmissible statements that unfairly bolstered the Commonwealth’s theory of gang retaliation or improper interpretive testimony from the lead homicide detective; (5) Defendant’s assertion that trial counsel was ineffective was unavailing; and (6) Defendant’s argument that the motion judge erred in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss indictments because the Commonwealth failed to establish probable cause to believe that Defendant committed the victim’s murder had no merit. View "Commonwealth v. Barbosa" on Justia Law

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A defendant charged with murder is not entitled to a lesser included offense instruction when the defendant cannot be convicted of the offense of manslaughter due to the statute of limitations. The defendant, however, may elect to waive the statute of limitations and invoke his or her right to the lesser included offense instruction of manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, as a participant in a joint venture. The trial judge reduced the murder conviction to murder in the second degree on Defendant’s motion. Defendant would have been entitled to a manslaughter instruction had the limitations period not run. During his trial, Defendant requested that the judge instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter. The trial judge gave Defendant the choice to waive the statute of limitations to invoke his right to the lesser included offense instruction, but Defendant declined to waive his statute of limitations defense. Therefore, the judge did not instruct the jury on manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge correctly allowed Defendant to choose between asserting the statute of limitations defense or his right to a manslaughter instruction. View "Commonwealth v. Shelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law