Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of drugs found within a locked glove compartment, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and that Defendant was not deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. In denying Defendant’s motion to suppress the motion judge found that the police had probable cause to arrest Defendant for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana and that the search of the vehicle was justified as an inventory search. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge was warranted in finding that police had probable cause to believe that Defendant had operated a motor vehicle while impaired; and (2) while the motion judge’s decision to deny the motion to suppress was improper on the grounds that the police conducted a lawful inventory search, the officers had authority to search the vehicle, pursuant to the automobile exception, for evidence pertaining to the offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. View "Commonwealth v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to grant extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing argument and that the supplemental instructions provided to the jury in response to a question the jury submitted during deliberations were not in error. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor’s method of presenting grant jury testimony was flawed and that erroneous jury instructions entitled him to a reversal of his convictions. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the prosecutor’s method of presenting the grand jury testimony was not in error and that the instruction the judge gave in response to the jury’s question was a correct statement of the law. View "Commonwealth v. Andrade" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that was found in plain view during a protective sweep on the basis that the officers’ entry into Defendant’s home was not justified based on exigent circumstances, holding that the judge properly found that the police created the exigency that prompted their warrantless entry into Defendant’s dwelling. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights provides greater protection than the Fourteenth Amendment where the police have relied on a reasonably foreseeable exigency to justify the warrantless entry into a dwelling; (2) under the circumstances of this case, the arrest of Defendant in his dwelling without a warrant was unreasonable; and (3) the Commonwealth waived the argument regarding whether, if the permissible observations from the affidavit were redacted, the search warrant was based on probable cause. View "Commonwealth v. Alexis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions as a joint venturer of kidnapping and murder in the first degree and the denial of his motions for a new trial and for post trial discovery and further declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from his clothing was properly denied; (2) statements that the prosecutor made during closing argument regarding blood evidence connecting Defendant to the crime did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) there was no reason to reduce the degree of guilt or grant a new trial pursuant to the Court’s superintendence powers. View "Commonwealth v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the district court denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial after he pleaded guilty to violating multiple controlled substances laws, holding that remand was required for further proceedings on Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel because the judge might have failed to recognize his discretion to credit or discredit Defendant’s affidavits as they pertained to plea counsel’s allegedly deficient performance and failed to make factual findings about whether special circumstances relevant to the prejudice inquiry existed. After Defendant entered his plea, he filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 30(b), arguing that his counsel had rendered ineffective assistance and that he would not have pleaded guilty if counsel had properly advised him about the plea’s immigration consequences. The motion judge denied the motion after holding a nonevidentiary hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the denial of the motion for a new trial, holding that remand was required for findings relating to the issue of plea counsel’s deficient performance and the issue of special circumstances. View "Commonwealth v. Lys" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered when police officers “froze” a house while they obtained a warrant, holding that the suppression order was proper because there was an insufficient basis to believe that evidence would be lost or destroyed. The court of appeals reversed the suppression order, concluding that the police officers’ actions were justified to prevent the removal or destruction of evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that that police officers were not justified in conducting a warrantless search to prevent the loss or destruction of evidence. View "Commonwealth v. Owens" on Justia Law

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The Supreme court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree and the superior court’s denial of his motion for a new trial, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below and that there was no reason to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce the degree of guilt or order a new trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) defense counsel provided constitutionally effective assistance; (2) Defendant’s due process rights were not violated by the Commonwealth’s failure to disclose purported cooperation agreements it had with witnesses; (3) there was no prejudicial error in the admission of evidence of injuries the child sustained; and (4) the prosecutor did not improperly vouch for the credibility of the victim’s mother in her closing argument. View "Commonwealth v. Goitia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the trial judge granting a class-wide preliminary injunction concerning the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) operation of a shelter program, holding that, based on the preliminary record, Plaintiffs had not shown a likelihood of succeeding on their claim that the challenged policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating on the basis of disability. Plaintiffs were among the approximately 3,500 people currently served by the emergency assistance (EA) program. Plaintiffs sought a class-wide preliminary injunction directing DHCD to use motels as EA replacements. The judge allowed the motion in part and ordered that DHCD treat motels and hotels as available placements when implementing approved ADA accommodation requests in the EA program. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings, holding the judge erred in concluding (1) any delay in providing an ADA accommodation is a per se violation of law, and (2) DHCD likely violated ADA regulations that prohibit public entities from providing services or siting facilities in a manner that has the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability. View "Garcia v. Department of Housing & Community Development" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the widespread evidence tampering of chemist Sonja Farak at the State Laboratory Institute in Amherst at the campus of the University of Massachusetts compromised the integrity of thousands of drug convictions and that her misconduct, compounded by prosecutorial misconduct, requires that the Court exercise its superintendence authority and vacate and dismiss all criminal convictions tainted by governmental wrongdoing. Farak stole and used for her own use drugs submitted to the lab for testing and consumed drug “standards” required for testing. Members of the Attorney General’s office deceptively withheld exculpatory evidence on the matter. Petitioners sought dismissal of thousands of cases tainted by governmental wrongdoing. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the class of “Farak defendants” includes all defendants who were found guilty of a drug charge where Farak signed the certificate of analysis, the conviction was based on methamphetamine and the drugs were tested during Farak’s tenure at the Amherst lab, or the drugs were tested at the Amherst lab during a certain period regardless of who signed the certificate of analysis. The Court also recommended that the standing advisory committee on the rules of criminal procedure propose amendments to Rule 14 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure to include a Brady checklist and any other beneficial modifications. View "Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, as a joint venturer, holding that none of the arguments Defendant raised on appeal warranted reversal of his convictions. During trial, the Commonwealth proceeded on a theory of felony-murder, with armed home invasion and attempted armed robbery as the predicate felonies. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and declined to exercise its authority to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in allowing cell site location information evidence; (3) the judge did not err when she did not instruct the jury that they were allowed to reach factually inconsistent verdicts; and (4) this Court declines to abolish the common-law doctrine of felony-murder. View "Commonwealth v. Bin" on Justia Law