Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the superior court judge's allowance of Defendant's motion to dismiss three indictments against him for statutory rape and three indictments for forcible rape of a minor for three crimes he allegedly committed against a student in the 1980s, holding that the Commonwealth's evidence established probable cause for only two separate incidents rather than three. At issue in this case were certain provisions of a statute that sets a twenty-seven year statute of limitations on sex crimes against children, a requirement of corroborating evidence if the crimes are charged after the limitation period has expired, and a tolling provision. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the tolling provision in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, 63 does not apply to the requirement that child rape charges brought more than twenty-seven years after the commission of the alleged crime be supported by corroborating evidence; (2) the evidentiary requirement of section 63 requires the Commonwealth to present the corroborating evidence to the grand jury; (3) the Commonwealth presented sufficient corroborating evidence to the grand jury in the instant case; and (4) the Commonwealth's evidence established probable cause for only two alleged incidents. View "Commonwealth v. Buono" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the Housing Court for Landlord on its summary process complaint and affirmed the denial of relief on Tenants' counterclaims, holding that Landlord's summary process complaint must be dismissed because the summons and complaint were served within fourteen days of Tenants' receipt of the notice to quit. Landlord brought this summary process action against Tenants seeking to recover possession of the premises at issue and damages for unpaid rent. Tenants filed several counterclaims. The judge ordered judgment for Tenants on two counterclaims and awarded nominal damages. The parties later filed cross appeals. The Appeals Court dismissed Tenants' appeal on timeliness grounds. The Supreme Judicial Court granted further appellate review and held (1) Tenants' appeal was timely; (2) because the summary process proceeding was commenced before the fourteen-day deadline had come and gone, judgment must enter for Tenants; and (3) the judge did not err in denying relief on Tenants' counterclaims. View "Youghal, LLC v. Entwistle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 18B, holding that the judgment of conviction was not erroneous. On appeal, Defendant argued that his section 18B conviction must be vacated because the Commonwealth failed to indict him for and convict him of an appropriate root felony. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that Defendant's two convictions of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon may serve as the root felony for Defendant's section 18B conviction. View "Commonwealth v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a loaded firearm, and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions. Specifically, Defendant argued (1) there was insufficient evidence that he had knowledge of the physical characteristics of the firearm that subjected it to regulation; (2) there was insufficient evidence that the weapon met the statutory definition of a firearm; and (3) two out-of-court identifications were not impermissibly suggestive. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) in order to establish unlawful possession of a firearm, the Commonwealth must only prove that the defendant knew the weapon was a firearm in the conventional sense of the word, and the defendant need not have had knowledge of the specific physical characteristics that made the weapon a firearm according to statute; (2) the evidence was sufficient to establish that the weapon met the statutory definition of a firearm; and (3) the identification procedures were not impermissibly suggestive. View "Commonwealth v. Marrero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the trial judge granting Defendant's motion to suppress certain GPS location data and its fruits, holding that the initial imposition of a GPS device as a condition of pretrial release violated article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. In 2015, Defendant was charged with possession of a class B substance with the intent to distribute, as a subsequent offense, and motor vehicle violations. Defendant was ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device as a condition of release. Defendant was later arrested and indicted on charges of armed robbery while masked. Defendant moved to suppress the GPS location data used to identify him as being present at the scene of the crime. After finding that Defendant had consented to the use of GPS location data only for the purposes of enforcing conditions of release and not for general law enforcement purposes the judge concluded that the search was not supported by probable cause and granted the motion to suppress. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the search was impermissible because the GPS monitoring did not further any legitimate governmental interests. View "Commonwealth v. Norman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences for assault and battery on a family or household member and assault by means of a dangerous weapon, holding that that a trial judge may order a defendant to pay restitution to a third party in certain circumstances. On appeal, Defendant argued that her right to a fair trial was violated and that the trial judge erred in ordering her to pay restitution to the victim's mother, who was a third party and non victim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant received a fair trial; and (2) a trial judge may order a defendant to pay restitution to a third party, and the order in the instant case satisfied the causation requirement. View "Commonwealth v. McGann" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the juvenile court committing a juvenile for substance use disorder treatment pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 35, holding that the juvenile was committed on insufficient evidence. After a hearing, the juvenile court judge committed the juvenile for ninety days for treatment. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the commitment order, holding (1) appeals from an order of commitment pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 35 are not moot solely because the individual is no longer committed; (2) taking into account a juvenile's youth necessarily is required as part of the individualized assessment demanded by such petitions; (3) it was not clearly erroneous to find that the juvenile had a substance use disorder; (4) the evidence in the record was insufficient to support a finding of imminent and "very substantial risk of physical impairment or injury" as required by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 1; and (5) due process requires a judge to consider less restrictive alternatives in all commitment hearings for substance use disorder treatment. View "In re a Minor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of a superior court judge declaring that booking photographs of police officers arrested for alleged crimes and police incident reports involving public officials were not exempt from disclosure under the public records law, holding that the superior court did not err. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC (Globe) made public records requests to the State police seeking booking photographs and police incident reports related to the arrests of law enforcement officers. The State police refused to comply with the requests, stating that the records were "criminal offender record information" (CORI) and were therefore not "public records" as defined in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 4, 7. The Globe also made a public records request to the Boston police department for the names of officers charged with driving under the influence and the related booking photographs and incident reports. The Boston police withheld the records on the same grounds used by the State police. The Globe brought suit. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Globe. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that requested booking photographs and incident reports were not absolutely exempt from disclosure as public records under exemption (a) or exemption (c) of the CORI Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 167-178B. View "Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC v. Department of Criminal Justice Information Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the superior court's grant of summary judgment for the Attorney General and entering a judgment declaring that Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC's (Globe) request for data tables containing certain information for each criminal case tracked by the Commonwealth's eleven district attorneys sought public records that must be disclosed, holding that the district attorneys must disclose to the Globe twenty-two of the twenty-three categories of information requested, excising from the disclosure the docket number for each case requested. Specifically, the Court held (1) the data sought by the Globe would be "specifically or by necessary implication exempted from disclosure" under the Criminal Offender Record Information Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 167-178B if the individuals whose cases were tracked by the data could be directly or indirectly identified; (2) if the docket number for each case were redacted from the remaining categories of information, those individuals could not be directly or indirectly identified from this data; and (3) the request in this case, which required the traction of categories of information from an existing database, does not impose a burden on public record holders that exceed what is required under the public records law. View "Attorney General v. District Attorney for Plymouth District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Petitioner's petition for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking review of a superior court judge's decision denying Petitioner's motion to dismiss two armed assault with intent to murder indictments and two sentencing enhancement charges on the basis of double jeopardy, holding that the single justice did not err. On appeal from the denial of his petition, Petitioner argued, among other things, that the armed career criminal statutes defines an "offense," for double jeopardy purposes, rather than a sentencing enhancement. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice rejecting Defendant's arguments, holding that none of Defendant's arguments that his double jeopardy rights were violated was persuasive. View "Rivera v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law