Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 233, 20, Fourth - which applies to the testimony of a parent of minor child against the other in criminal, delinquency, and youthful offender proceedings where the victim is not a family member and does not reside in the household - does not disqualify parents from being called as witnesses for the defense to testify at an evidentiary hearing for a motion to suppress.Juvenile was indicted as a youthful offender on the charge of carrying a firearm without a license. Before trial, Juvenile moved to suppress certain statements he made to the police and sought to call his mother to testify at the evidentiary hearing. The Commonwealth sought to prohibit the juvenile's mother from testifying based on section 20, Fourth. The judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) section 20, Fourth prevents the prosecution from calling the child's parents to testify for the Commonwealth in youthful offender proceedings where the victim is not a family member and does not reside in the household; but (2) section 20, Fourth allows the child to call his or her parents as witnesses for the defense and then the Commonwealth to cross-examine them. View "Commonwealth v. Vigiani" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Sex Offender Registry Board classifying Plaintiff as a level three sex offender, holding that the sex offender registration law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178C-178Q, is not unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiff.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) Plaintiff's challenges to the constitutionality of provisions in the sex offender registration law requiring a person convicted of kidnapping a child to register as a sex offender, as applied to his case, were unavailing; (2) there was no error in the admission of hearsay evidence at Plaintiff's classification hearing or in the denial of Plaintiff's motion for expert funds; and (3) the Board's decision to classify Plaintiff as a level three sex offender was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. View "Doe, SORB No. 339940 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court requiring Leroy Randolph to submit a saliva sample for DNA testing to establish whether DNA found on a murder weapon belonged to him, holding that there was no error.In 1986, Richard Randolph was convicted of murder in the first degree for the killing of Brian Golden. In 2020, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 7, Richard sought a DNA sample from Leroy to determine whether Leroy's DNA was present on the knife. After the motion was allowed Leroy filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Richard demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that testing would not "lack any probative value"; and (2) the motion judge properly found that Richard established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that analysis of Leroy's DNA would provide evidence material to the identification of a perpetrator of the crime. View "Randolph v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for trafficking of persons for sexual servitude and unlawful possession of marijuana, holding that the superior court judge did not err denying Defendant's motion to suppress and that there were no errors necessitating a new trial.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the motion judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from sex cell phones; (2) the judge did not commit reversible error in allowing the Commonwealth's motion in limine seeking to introduce certain text messages as statements by a coventurer, andthe judge's failure to provide a limiting instruction was error but did not prejudice Defendant; (3) the judge did not abuse her discretion in permitting the introduction of prior bad acts; and (4) there was no other prejudicial error in the proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. Lowery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of assault and battery and strangulation, holding that admitting the victim's statements did not violate Defendant's right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.The victim did not testify at trial. Instead, a recording of the victim's 911 call and the responding officers' recounting of the victim's statements were admitted. The Appeals Court reversed Defendant's convictions on the grounds that his confrontation rights were violated. On appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding (1) because most of the admitted statements were not made with the primary purpose of creating a substitute for trial testimony they were non testimonial and did not violate Defendant's confrontation rights; and (2) to the extent that the victim's statements were testimonial, the only such statement was duplicative of other evidence, and its admission was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Commonwealth v. Rand" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court denying Plaintiff's petition for relief after she was suspended without pay from her position as an assistant clerk-magistrate in the superior court following her indictment on felony charges, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the denial of relief.In her petition, Plaintiff argued, among other things, that the executive office of the trial court exceeded its authority by acting pursuant to a provision of its personnel manual mandating suspension without pay of employees charged with felonies. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's suspension without pay upon the issuance of a federal felony indictment was consistent with and mandated by the terms of the personnel manual, the promulgation of which constituted a permissible exercise of the Court Administrator's authority; (2) the single justice did not err in finding that the trial court's procedures satisfied due process; and (3) Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on her equal protection claims. View "Moore v. Executive Office of the Trial Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court recognizing an Israeli judgment under the Massachusetts Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 235, 23A, thus allowing the foreign money judgment to be enforced, holding that the superior court did not err.Defendant failed to pay Plaintiff, an Israeli law firm, its agreed-upon fees, and an Israeli court held Defendant liable for the debt. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought this action seeking to recognize the Israeli judgment under the recognition act. The judge recognized the judgment, allowing it to be enforced. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the recognition act does not require compliance with Mass. R. Civ. P. 4(d), as amended, but is best understood as requiring the same level of notice as required by due process; and (2) the Israeli judgment was not repugnant and did not offend public policy. View "Cassouto-Noff & Co. v. Diamond" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree on a theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty, holding that Defendant's allegations of error were unavailing.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to support a finding of extreme atrocity or cruelty, and therefore, the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant's motions for a required finding of not guilty; (2) there was no error in the trial judge's supplemental jury instruction; (3) the judge did not abuse her discretion in allowing the introduction of prior bad act evidence; (4) even if the prosecutor made a statement during his closing argument that crossed a line of hyperbole, there was no substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (5) there was no error warranting relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. West" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant did not meet the threshold under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 3 to be entitled to a hearing on his motions for postconviction forensic testing.Defendant was convicted of premeditated murder on a theory of transferred intent based on evidence that Defendant shot at particular individuals with the intent to kill them, killing the victim. Defendant filed a motion for postconviction testing and analysis of ballistics evidence, arguing that there may have been more than one firearm present at the incident. The motion judge denied the motion without a hearing. Defendant then field a renewed motion to permit testing of ballistics evidence. The judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not satisfy the preliminary showing under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 3 such that he was entitled to a hearing on his motions for postconviction forensic testing. View "Commonwealth v. Jenks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the superior court judge denying Defendant's eighth motion for postconviction forensic testing of certain evidence from his 1999 trial, holding that Defendant satisfied the threshold requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 378A, 3 entitling him to an evidentiary hearing on his motion.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court that Defendant properly raised and preserved his claim, based on Commonwealth v. Williams, 481 Mass. 799 (2019), that the requested testing had the potential to result in evidence that was material to his identification as the perpetrator of the crime of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. Therefore, the Court reversed the order denying Defendant's motion for postconviction forensic testing of bloodstains taken from the cement floor of a parking garage and remanded the matter for a hearing pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 7. View "Commonwealth v. Donald" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law