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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the trial court’s allowance of Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the basis that trial counsel was ineffective because he was burdened by an actual conflict of interest. At issue on appeal was whether Defendant presented sufficient evidence to establish that his trial counsel was burdened by an actual conflict of interest. The Supreme Judicial Court held that while Defendant set forth the basis for what may constitute a potential conflict of interest, he failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that his trial counsel was operating under an actual conflict of interest. The court remanded the case to the superior court for a determination of whether there was a potential conflict causing prejudice that would warrant a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Cousin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on the theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce to set aside the verdict. The court held (1) the trial judge did not err by failing to find that the Commonwealth’s peremptory challenges of prospective jurors were improper; (2) the trial judge did not err by allowing evidence of Defendant’s gang affiliation and the victim’s brother’s knowledge of neighborhood gang activity; (3) the trial judge did not err by precluding Defendant from cross-examining a police officer witness on prior misconduct; and (4) there was no reversible error arising from the prosecutor’s closing argument. View "Commonwealth v. Lopes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Cities and towns may exercise their zoning authority to determine whether land in their communities may be used as a noncommercial private restricted landing area (in this case, a private heliport). Here, the Land Court judge concluded that he was constrained to apply the Appeals Court’s holding in Hanlon v. Sheffield, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 392 (2016), which interpreted Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 39B to provide that a town may not enforce a zoning bylaw that would prohibit a private landowner from creating a noncommercial private restricted landing area on his property unless the bylaw had been approved by the Department of Transportation (division). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the Land Court, holding that there is no clear legislative intent to preempt local zoning enactments with respect to noncommercial private restricted landing areas, and cities and towns do not need the prior approval of the division to enforce a zoning bylaw that requires some form of approval, variance, or special permit for land to be used as a private heliport. View "Roma, III, Ltd. v. Board of Appeals of Rockport" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the district court judge denying Defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, holding that the motion judge correctly determined that Defendant did not satisfy the prejudice requirement of the test set forth in Commonwealth v. Saferian, 366 Mass. 89 (1974). As grounds for his motion, Defendant argued that plea counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to advise him of the duty to register as a sex offender, and its consequences, or explain that Defendant might have sought a continuance without a finding. The district court found Defendant’s affidavit and assertions not credible and denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to satisfy the second prong of the Saferian standard and thus could not prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. View "Commonwealth v. Lastowski" on Justia Law

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After the dissolution of Gentix, a biotech research company established as a Delaware LLC with headquarters in Boston, Johnson and Rose, former Gentix board members and investors were found personally liable under G. L. c. 149, 148 (Wage Act), for failing to pay wages owed to the former president of Genitrix, Segal. On direct appellate review, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed, concluding that the Wage Act does not impose personal liability on board members, acting only in their capacity as board members, or investors engaged in ordinary investment activity. To impose such liability, the statute requires that the defendants be "officers or agents having the management" of a company, G. L. c. 149, 148. The defendants were not designated as company officers and had limited agency authority. The only officer having the management of the company was the plaintiff, not the defendants. View "Segal v. Genitrix, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty and declined to exercise its authority to order a new trial or to reduce the murder conviction to a lesser degree of guilt under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) the trial judge did not err in refusing to permit a defense expert to testify on direct examination to hearsay statements made by Defendant; (2) the trial court did not err in introducing testimony by the Commonwealth’s expert concerning what “drove” Defendant to kill the victim; and (3) the Mutina instruction the judge gave in this case was proper and did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice. View "Commonwealth v. Piantedosi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the convictions of defendants Reginald Holley and Oasis Pritchett for felony-murder in the first degree, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm without a license, as joint venturers, and declined to set aside the verdicts or reduce the degree of guilt pursuant to the court’s authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendants’ convictions of felony-murder in the first degree; (2) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendants’ motion to suppress the content of their text messages; (3) the trial judge did not err in declining to instruct the jury on felony-murder in the second degree and in dismissing an ill juror during the jury’s deliberations; (4) the judge did not err by denying Pritchett’s motion to sever Defendants’ trials; and (5) the judge did not err in admitting evidence of prior bad acts and declining to instruct the jury on the requirements of the hearsay exemption concerning joint venturer statements. View "Commonwealth v. Holley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction of Defendant for murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the presence of investigating police officers in the grand jury room during witness testimony in support of the indictments against Defendant did not result in structural error requiring the reversal of Defendant’s convictions; (2) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel during trial, nor was there prosecutorial misconduct; and (3) the admission of statements Defendant made during an interview with police did not violate his Miranda rights. View "Commonwealth v. Woollam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree and aggravated rape and declined to exercise its extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce the verdict in this case arising from a reopened investigation into a previously unsolved murder. The court held (1) challenged statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (2) because there was no error in the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument, Defendant failed in his argument that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the improper statements in the prosecutor’s closing. View "Commonwealth v. Diaz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to exclude the results of a breathalyzer test taken by the Alcotest 7110 MK III-C at his trial for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. In an earlier appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case to the district court to conduct a hearing on the scientific reliability of the Alcotest. After a hearing, the district court concluded that the Alcotest was capable for producing scientifically reliable breath test results and denied Defendant’s motion to exclude this evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the district judge did not abuse his discretion in finding that the Alcotest satisfies the Daubert-Lanigan standard for the admissibility of scientific evidence. View "Commonwealth v. Camblin" on Justia Law