Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of possession of a class B substance with intent to distribute, holding that although the voir dire in this case was incomplete, it did not prejudice Defendant. During jury selection, and over Defendant’s objection, the judge excused for cause a prospective juror who said that it was her opinion that “the system is rigged against young African American males.” On appeal, Defendant argued that the judge abused his discretion in dismissing the prospective juror. While the Supreme Court declined to set aside the verdict, the Court took the opportunity to set forth the factors a judge should consider when a prospective juror states a belief or opinion based on his or her world view. View "Commonwealth v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge in this case allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress his postarrest statements, holding that the police lacked probable cause to arrest. Defendant was charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle, subsequent offense, and receiving stolen property over $250 in connection with items found in a stolen motor vehicle. Defendant filed a motion to suppress his postarrest statements on the grounds that the police lacked probable cause to arrest. The motion judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause that Defendant knew the vehicle was stolen, which is a requisite element of the crime of receiving a stolen motor vehicle. View "Commonwealth v. Pridgett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s requests for an instruction on accident and on involuntary manslaughter; (2) the absence of an instruction on voluntary manslaughter did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) this Court was not required to apply the theory of transferred intent self-defense to correct a miscarriage of justice; (4) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial based on the erroneous deprivation of two preemptory challenges; (5) a police officer’s identification testimony, even if erroneous, was not prejudicial; and (6) trial counsel’s failure to present an intoxication defense through available witnesses did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Pina" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendants Kevin McCormack and Brian Porreca of murder in the first degree, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to support each defendant’s murder conviction; (2) there trial judge did not err in concluding that there were no Brady violations; (3) there was no “newly discovered” evidence requiring a new trial; (4) Defendants’ rights to confrontation and due process were protected when a DNA expert testified at trial; (5) discovery violations in this case did not implicate the confrontation clause; (6) Defendants’ motion for disclosure of a confidential informant’s identity was properly denied; and (7) there was no reason for the Court to order a new trial or to reduce the degree of guilt under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Barry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of involuntary manslaughter as a youthful offender, holding that the evidence proved that, by her wanton or reckless misconduct, Defendant caused the victim’s death by suicide and that Defendant’s conviction was not legally or constitutionally infirm. The trial judge concluded that Defendant’s act of encouraging the victim with text messages and phone calls to commit suicide and failure to act to overpowered the victim’s will to live and caused the victim’s death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence at trial was sufficient to establish Defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) Defendant’s verbal conduct was not protected by the First Amendment; and (3) the other legal issues raise by Defendant lacked merit. View "Commonwealth v. Carter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a municipal court judge civilly committing M.C. for a period of two months, holding that the record contained sufficient evidence to support M.C.’s involuntary commitment and that M.C. was not denied due process of law despite the hearing being conducted at a hospital rather than at a court house and in the absence of a complete, verbatim transcript. Although M.C. sought to have the civil commitment hearing conducted at a court house, the hearing was held at the psychiatric facility where M.C. had been temporarily committed. At the beginning of the proceeding the court-owned recording equipment malfunctioned, and then two different alternate recording devices were used to record the remainder of the hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judge’s decision to civilly commit M.C., holding that the available transcript provided an adequate basis for appellate review and contained sufficient evidence to support M.C.’s involuntary commitment. View "In re M.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s allowance of Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and remanded this discrimination case, holding that the trial judge erred in determining that Plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of showing a prima facie case of discrimination. Plaintiff, a lieutenant in the Massachusetts State police, brought this Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, 4 action alleging that he suffered discrimination when he was denied a transfer to a different troop station on the basis of his age, race, or national origin. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the State police, holding that Plaintiff did not meet his burden of showing that the denial of his request for a lateral transfer was an “adverse employment action.” The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s judgment, holding (1) under certain circumstances, the failure to grant a lateral transfer to a preferred position may constitute an adverse employment action under ch. 151B; and (2) because Plaintiff met his burden of showing a prima facie case of discrimination, this case is remanded to the motion judge to decide the issue of whether Plaintiff’s request for a lateral transfer was motivated by discriminatory animus. View "Yee v. Massachusetts State Police" on Justia Law

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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