Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed Defendant’s convictions of involuntary manslaughter and assault and battery and remanded the case for a new trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge committed reversible error by failing to conduct a voir dire after the prosecutor reported that some jurors fell asleep during the trial. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant met his burden to show that the judge’s response to the information about the sleeping jurors was a structural error that could not be considered harmless, and therefore, Defendant’s convictions must be vacated. View "Commonwealth v. Villalobos" 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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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and of unlawful possession of a firearm and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce the conviction to murder in the second degree. The court held (1) the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress, but Defendant was not prejudiced by the error; (2) the trial judge properly admitted statements of the victim under the state-of-mind exception to the hearsay rule; (3) the Commonwealth’s ballistics expert was competent to testify about the trajectory of the shot that killed the victim; and (4) Defendant received effective assistance of counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Castano" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions for two counts of murder in the first degree on the theories of felony murder, deliberate premeditation, and extreme atrocity or cruelty and the order denying his motion for a new trial and declined to set aside the verdicts or reduce the degree of guilt under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. Defendant was convicted as a joint venturer. His coventurer was tried separately and convicted of the victims’ murders. The Supreme Judicial Court held that there was no error warranting dismissal of the indictments or reversal of the convictions. View "Commonwealth v. Rakes" on Justia Law

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Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 100A(6), the provision of a statute that retroactively prohibits Plaintiff from sealing the record of her sex offenses because she was once classified as a level two sex offender, as applied to Plaintiff, is both retroactive and unreasonable, and therefore, State constitutional due process precludes the Supreme Court from enforcing it against her. Plaintiff argued that the retroactive statutory prohibition on sealing sex offenses violated her due process rights under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because the Sex Offender Registry Board had determined that Plaintiff no longer posed any cognizable degree of dangerousness or risk of reoffending, no longer believed she should be classified as a level two sex offender, and had relieved her of the obligation to register as a sex offender. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with Plaintiff, holding that section 100A applies retroactively to Plaintiff and is unreasonable in its application to her. View "Koe v. Commissioner of Probation" on Justia Law

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A police officer, responding to a report of an unauthorized person at Milton High School, searched the defendant's backpack and discovered a firearm, money, and marijuana. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the police officer lacked a constitutionally permissible basis for the pat-frisk and the subsequent search. He was convicted of carrying a firearm without a license, G.L. c. 269, 10(a); carrying a dangerous weapon on school grounds, 269, 10(j); possession of a firearm without a firearm identification card, 269, 10(h); disturbing a school, 272, 40; and possession of a class D substance with intent to distribute, 94C, 32C. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated, stating that when a police officer conducts a pat-frisk, the applicable standard for assessing its constitutionality is reasonable articulable suspicion under Terry v. Ohio and that an officer's conduct in a school setting is governed by the traditional Fourth Amendment standard. Applying the Terry standard to this case, the officer lacked reasonable articulable suspicion that the defendant had committed a crime and the circumstances of the encounter did not warrant a reasonable belief that the defendant was armed and dangerous. Nor was the search permissible under any exception to the warrant requirement. View "Commonwealth v. Villagran" on Justia Law

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Where a juvenile is sentenced for nonmurder offenses and the aggregate time to be served prior to parole eligibility exceeds that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder, the sentence cannot be reconciled with article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights unless, after a hearing on the factors articulated in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the judgment makes a finding that the circumstances warrant treating the juvenile more harshly for parole purposes than a juvenile convicted of murder. Defendant was seventeen years old when he committed the offenses leading to his convictions for armed robbery, armed assault with intent to rob, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and related firearms offenses. The judge sentenced Defendant to an aggregate sentence of thirty-two and one-half years, with parole eligibility after twenty-seven and one-half years. Defendant later filed a motion for resentencing, arguing that the aggregate sentence violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and the cognate provision of article 26. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for a Miller hearing to determine whether Defendant’s sentence comported with the requirements of article 26. If not, then Defendant must be resentenced. View "Commonwealth v. Perez" on Justia Law

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In setting the amount of bail for a defendant, a judge must consider the defendant’s financial resources but is not required to set bail in an amount the defendant can afford if other relevant considerations weigh more heavily than the defendant’s ability to prove the necessary security for his appearance at trial. In this case, Petitioner had been held in jail for more than three and one-half years because he had been unable to post bail in the amounts ordered by a superior court judge following his arrest and indictment for armed robbery while masked. Petitioner petitioned for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. A single justice denied the petition. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the superior court’s bail order violated his right to due process because the judge failed to give adequate consideration to his financial resources. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the judge did not consider Petitioner’s financial resources in setting the bail. The court remanded the matter with directions that the superior court judge conduct a new bail hearing for Petitioner in accord with the standards set forth in this opinion. View "Brangan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law