Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the district court judge denying Defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, holding that the motion judge correctly determined that Defendant did not satisfy the prejudice requirement of the test set forth in Commonwealth v. Saferian, 366 Mass. 89 (1974). As grounds for his motion, Defendant argued that plea counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to advise him of the duty to register as a sex offender, and its consequences, or explain that Defendant might have sought a continuance without a finding. The district court found Defendant’s affidavit and assertions not credible and denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to satisfy the second prong of the Saferian standard and thus could not prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. View "Commonwealth v. Lastowski" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the convictions of defendants Reginald Holley and Oasis Pritchett for felony-murder in the first degree, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm without a license, as joint venturers, and declined to set aside the verdicts or reduce the degree of guilt pursuant to the court’s authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendants’ convictions of felony-murder in the first degree; (2) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendants’ motion to suppress the content of their text messages; (3) the trial judge did not err in declining to instruct the jury on felony-murder in the second degree and in dismissing an ill juror during the jury’s deliberations; (4) the judge did not err by denying Pritchett’s motion to sever Defendants’ trials; and (5) the judge did not err in admitting evidence of prior bad acts and declining to instruct the jury on the requirements of the hearsay exemption concerning joint venturer statements. View "Commonwealth v. Holley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction of Defendant for murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the presence of investigating police officers in the grand jury room during witness testimony in support of the indictments against Defendant did not result in structural error requiring the reversal of Defendant’s convictions; (2) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel during trial, nor was there prosecutorial misconduct; and (3) the admission of statements Defendant made during an interview with police did not violate his Miranda rights. View "Commonwealth v. Woollam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree and aggravated rape and declined to exercise its extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce the verdict in this case arising from a reopened investigation into a previously unsolved murder. The court held (1) challenged statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (2) because there was no error in the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument, Defendant failed in his argument that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the improper statements in the prosecutor’s closing. View "Commonwealth v. Diaz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to exclude the results of a breathalyzer test taken by the Alcotest 7110 MK III-C at his trial for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. In an earlier appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case to the district court to conduct a hearing on the scientific reliability of the Alcotest. After a hearing, the district court concluded that the Alcotest was capable for producing scientifically reliable breath test results and denied Defendant’s motion to exclude this evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the district judge did not abuse his discretion in finding that the Alcotest satisfies the Daubert-Lanigan standard for the admissibility of scientific evidence. View "Commonwealth v. Camblin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to exercise its extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. On appeal, Defendant argued that his defense counsel, the trial judge, and the prosecutor all committed error, requiring a new trial. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) any error on the part of the defense counsel did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (2) the admission of certain prior bad act evidence was error, but there was no substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) there was no error in the prosecutor’s remarks during closing argument; and (4) there was no error in the jury instructions. View "Commonwealth v. Vazquez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to exercise its extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. On appeal, Defendant argued that his defense counsel, the trial judge, and the prosecutor all committed error, requiring a new trial. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) any error on the part of the defense counsel did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (2) the admission of certain prior bad act evidence was error, but there was no substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) there was no error in the prosecutor’s remarks during closing argument; and (4) there was no error in the jury instructions. View "Commonwealth v. Vazquez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated and set aside Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on the theory of felony-murder, with unarmed robbery as the predicate felony, and remanded the matter to the superior court for further proceedings, holding that Defendant’s trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction; but (2) Defendant was entitled to a new trial because his trial counsel was deficient for failing to have filed a motion to suppress the search of Defendant’s cellular telephone, and the improperly-admitted evidence likely influenced the jury’s verdict. View "Commonwealth v. Morin" on Justia Law

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In this case filed by a Massachusetts-based company (“LevelUp”) against a California-based company (“Punchh”), alleging defamation and related causes of action connected with Punchh’s allegedly false statements about LevelUp to LevelUp’s prospective clients, the superior court allowed Punchh’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that it would not comport with due process to hale Punchh into a Massachusetts court. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter to the superior court for further proceedings, holding (1) prior to exercising personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, a judge must determine that doing so comports with both the forum’s long-arm statute and the requirements of the United States Constitution; and (2) the requisite statutory analysis did not occur in this case. View "SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty and the denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding that Defendant’s motion to suppress his confession was properly denied. Following a police interview lasting nearly five hours, Defendant confessed to having killed his mother. Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement as involuntary. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. On appeal, Defendant argued that the waiver of his Miranda rights was involuntary, that his confession was obtained absent a valid waiver of his right to prompt arraignment, that his confession was coerced, that he was arrested without probable cause, and that his counsel was ineffective not not seeking suppression on certain grounds. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to order a new trial or reduce the degree of guilt, holding that the trial judge committed no error warranting reversal, and there was no constitutionally ineffective assistance by trial counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Cartright" on Justia Law