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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty, holding that the judge who conducted Defendant’s third competency hearing did not err in finding him competent to stand trial notwithstanding testimony from both prosecution and defense experts that he was not competent. Defendant argued both prior to and during trial that he was not competent to stand trial due to an organic brain injury and a diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder. Competency hearings were held before five different judges, and Defendant was found competent to stand trial at the first, third, fourth, and fifth hearings. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the judge who conducted the third competency hearing used the correct standard procedure to determine competency, appropriately placed the burden on the Commonwealth to prove competency by a preponderance of the evidence, and properly explained the reasons for his decision, and thus, there was no error in his determination of competency; and (2) a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, imposed on a developmentally disabled individual, does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. View "Commonwealth v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty, holding that the judge who conducted Defendant’s third competency hearing did not err in finding him competent to stand trial notwithstanding testimony from both prosecution and defense experts that he was not competent. Defendant argued both prior to and during trial that he was not competent to stand trial due to an organic brain injury and a diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder. Competency hearings were held before five different judges, and Defendant was found competent to stand trial at the first, third, fourth, and fifth hearings. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the judge who conducted the third competency hearing used the correct standard procedure to determine competency, appropriately placed the burden on the Commonwealth to prove competency by a preponderance of the evidence, and properly explained the reasons for his decision, and thus, there was no error in his determination of competency; and (2) a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, imposed on a developmentally disabled individual, does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. View "Commonwealth v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the county court denying Appellant’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that retrying Appellant after his first trial ended in a mistrial will not violate his protection against double jeopardy. Appellant was charged with murder in the first degree. After deliberating for several days, the jury reported that they were deadlocked. The judge determined that the deliberating and alternate jurors had improperly communicated and thus engaged in misconduct. Appellant filed a motion for a mistrial on this basis. The judge allowed the motion. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. The judge denied the motion. Appellant then filed this petition seeking review of that decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because the evidence was legally sufficient to support a murder verdict against Appellant, retrying him will not violate the guarantee against double jeopardy. View "Pinney v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the county court denying Appellant’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that retrying Appellant after his first trial ended in a mistrial will not violate his protection against double jeopardy. Appellant was charged with murder in the first degree. After deliberating for several days, the jury reported that they were deadlocked. The judge determined that the deliberating and alternate jurors had improperly communicated and thus engaged in misconduct. Appellant filed a motion for a mistrial on this basis. The judge allowed the motion. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. The judge denied the motion. Appellant then filed this petition seeking review of that decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because the evidence was legally sufficient to support a murder verdict against Appellant, retrying him will not violate the guarantee against double jeopardy. View "Pinney v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court declined, in this case, to depart from the tenet that a traffic stop constitutes a reasonable seizure for purposes of article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights where a police officer has observed a traffic violation, notwithstanding the officer’s underlying motive for conducting the stop. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized during a traffic stop and affirmed Defendant’s conviction of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, holding (1) the stop at issue was justified based on the law enforcement officer’s observation of the vehicle speeding; (2) a question to the driver about the smell of marijuana did not fall beyond the permissible scope of the stop; and (3) the motion judge did not err in finding that the driver freely and voluntarily consented to the search of the vehicle. View "Commonwealth v. Buckley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of human trafficking, deriving support from prostitution, and assault and battery, thus rejecting Defendant’s claims of error. The court held (1) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in limiting defense counsel’s questioning during voir dire; (2) the evidence against Defendant was legally sufficient to sustain a conviction of human trafficking; (3) there was no error in the instruction to the jury regarding the human trafficking charge; and (4) the trial judge did not err in allowing the introduction of certain records and then retroactively ordering them to be redacted. View "Commonwealth v. Dabney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court affirming a determination by the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (CRAB) that sick or vacation payments, when used to supplement workers’ compensation payments, are not “regular compensation” as defined in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 1. On appeal, the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) argued that CRAB erred in determining that the supplemental pay received pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152, 69 does not constitute “regular compensation” as defined in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 1 when received in conjunction with workers’ compensation. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that CRAB’s decision was not incorrect as a matter of law. View "Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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A driver’s consent to allow law enforcement officers to search for narcotics or firearms “in the vehicle” does not authorize the officer to search under the hood of the vehicle and, as part of that search, to remove the vehicle’s air filter. The superior court in this case granted Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the scope of Defendant’s consent for officers to search for narcotics or firearms "in the vehicle" was limited to a search for narcotics or firearms in the vehicle’s interior and did not include a search under the hood beneath the air filter. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the search exceeded the scope of Defendant’s consent, and therefore, the search of the air filter under the hood was unconstitutional. The court thus affirmed the motion judge’s order allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress the weapons found in the air filter and Defendant’s subsequent statements to the police related to his possession of those weapons. View "Commonwealth v. Ortiz" on Justia Law

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A driver’s consent to allow law enforcement officers to search for narcotics or firearms “in the vehicle” does not authorize the officer to search under the hood of the vehicle and, as part of that search, to remove the vehicle’s air filter. The superior court in this case granted Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the scope of Defendant’s consent for officers to search for narcotics or firearms "in the vehicle" was limited to a search for narcotics or firearms in the vehicle’s interior and did not include a search under the hood beneath the air filter. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the search exceeded the scope of Defendant’s consent, and therefore, the search of the air filter under the hood was unconstitutional. The court thus affirmed the motion judge’s order allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress the weapons found in the air filter and Defendant’s subsequent statements to the police related to his possession of those weapons. View "Commonwealth v. Ortiz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for indecent assault and battery on a person over fourteen, assault and battery, and indecent exposure. The court held (1) the trial judge did not err in declining to give an instruction on mistake of fact for either the charge of indecent assault and battery or the charge of indecent exposure; (2) the trial judge did not err in allowing what Defendant asserted was unnecessary first complaint evidence; and (3) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion either in asking jurors follow-up questions after attorney-conducted voir dire or in ruling that the jurors were prejudicial. View "Commonwealth v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law