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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. The court also denied Defendant’s motion for a reduced verdict and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) there was no error committed by trial counsel, the trial judge or the prosecutor that created a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (2) there was no reason to remand Defendant’s case to the superior court for renewed consideration of his motion to reduce the verdict or to grant him relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Kolenovic" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Stored Communications Act (SCA) does not prohibit Yahoo from voluntarily disclosing the contents of a decedent’s e-mail account to the personal representatives of the decedent’s estate. Rather, the SCA permits Yahoo to divulge the contents of the e-mail account where the personal representatives lawfully consent to disclosure on the decedent’s behalf. The decedent in this case died intestate. The personal representatives of the decedent’s estate sought access to the contents of a Yahoo!, Inc. e-mail account that the decedent left behind. Yahoo declined to provide access to the account. The personal representatives commenced an action challenging Yahoo’s refusal. A judge of the probate and family court granted summary judgment for Yahoo. The Supreme Judicial Court set aside the judgment, holding that summary judgment for Yahoo should not have been allowed (1) on the basis that the requested disclosure was prohibited by the SCA, and (2) on the basis of the terms of a service agreement where material issues of fact pertinent to the enforceability of the contract remained in dispute. View "Ajemian v. Yahoo!, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, 32A(b) and (d) both punish possession with intent to distribute a class B substance, but 32A(b) carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years while 32A(d) carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three and one-half years. Defendant was charged with and convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, second offense, under section 32A(c) and (d), among other crimes. The judge, however, sentenced Defendant pursuant to section 32A(a) and (b). The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case to the superior court for resentencing, holding (1) the judge’s decision not to sentence Defendant pursuant to the statutes under which he was properly charged and convicted was error; (2) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (3) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction for assault and battery on a police officer; and (4) the jury instructions on self-defense created no substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. View "Commonwealth v. Ehiabhi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In a jury trial of an operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OUI) case, a trial judge should not give a jury instruction that specifically mentions the absence of breathalyzer or other alcohol-test evidence unless the defendant requests it. Defendant was convicted of one count of OUI. During trial, the jury was instructed about the absence of alcohol-test evidence in the judge’s final instructions over Defendant’s objection. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the conviction and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) giving the objected-to instruction regarding alcohol-test evidence constituted error; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the error was prejudicial. View "Commonwealth v. Wolfe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on the theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty and armed assault with the intent to murder, among other crimes. The court held (1) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after the Commonwealth’s expert witness purportedly commented on the credibility of Defendant or Defendant’s expert witness; (2) the trial judge did not err in denying motion to vacate the conviction because of a verdict slip error characterizing the armed assault with intent to murder indictment as assault with intent to murder; (3) the judge’s instruction to the jury describing what would happen if the jury found Defendant not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (4) Defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction regarding the effects of drugs on Defendant’s criminal responsibility; and (5) Defendant was not entitled to relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Dunn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on the theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty and armed assault with the intent to murder, among other crimes. The court held (1) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after the Commonwealth’s expert witness purportedly commented on the credibility of Defendant or Defendant’s expert witness; (2) the trial judge did not err in denying motion to vacate the conviction because of a verdict slip error characterizing the armed assault with intent to murder indictment as assault with intent to murder; (3) the judge’s instruction to the jury describing what would happen if the jury found Defendant not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (4) Defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction regarding the effects of drugs on Defendant’s criminal responsibility; and (5) Defendant was not entitled to relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Dunn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under the circumstances of this legal malpractice action, a court’s error of law was a concurrent, not a superseding, proximate cause, and therefore, recovery was not barred to the plaintiff client even where the defendant attorney was negligent for failing to prevent or mitigate the legal error. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, its former law firm, alleging that Defendant was negligent in failing to provide a French appellate court with evidence that the court deemed necessary for Plaintiff to prevail on a claim, which the court denied. The superior court granted summary judgment to Defendant and denied partial summary judgment to Plaintiff, concluding (1) the French court committed an error of law in requiring this evidence, and (2) even if Defendant were negligent in failing to provide the evidence to the court, Plaintiff could not recover damages for Defendant’s negligence because the court’s legal error was a superseding cause of the adverse action. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the trial judge erred in granting summary judgment to Defendant and denying partial summary judgment to Plaintiff. View "Kiribati Seafood Co., LLC v. Dechert LLP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case to the superior court for a determination as to whether a search exceeded the permissible scope of a warrant authorizing a search of Defendant’s apartment for certain evidence, including a cellular telephone, drug-related records, and a distinctive article of clothing. When the warrant was executed, officers seized, among other things, a large quantity of cocaine. The superior court allowed Defendant’s motion to suppress the seized evidence, concluding that the warrant affidavit failed to establish probable cause to believe that Defendant sold cocaine or a sufficient nexus between Defendant’s alleged criminal activity and his apartment. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that the affidavit (1) established a sufficient nexus in Defendant’s criminal transaction and his residence to permit a search for the cellular telephone used to arrange the sale of cocaine to a dealer and the sweatshirt he wore while conducting the transaction; but (2) did not provide sufficient particularized information to allow a general search of the apartment for other “drug-related” evidence. View "Commonwealth v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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A juvenile, who has been indicted as a youthful offender, is not entitled as of right to interlocutory review of a denial of a motion to dismiss that indictment. The grand jury returned a youthful offender indictment against Juvenile, charging her with rape of a child. Juvenile moved to dismiss the indictment for lack of probable cause. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the juvenile court judge’s order denying the motion to dismiss, holding (1) Juvenile is not entitled to interlocutory review under these circumstances, but, nevertheless, the court exercises its discretion to reach the merits of the petition; and (2) the youthful offender portion of the indictment was not sufficiently supported by probable cause. View "N.M. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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At issue was a purely legal question concerning the correct interpretation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 218, 26. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the plain language of the statute confers jurisdiction in the Boston Municipal Court Department (BMC) and the district court over intimidation of a witness or a juror but not over intimidation of any other person. Defendant was convicted in the BMC of intimidating a person furthering a court proceeding. The alleged victim was opposing counsel in a civil action commenced by Muckle. The intimidation conviction was later vacated and the charge dismissed for lack of jurisdiction in the BMC. The Appeals Court reversed the order dismissing the intimidation charge. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Appeals Court and affirmed the order dismissing the intimidation charge, holding that jurisdiction was absent in this case. View "Commonwealth v. Muckle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law