Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, holding that the seating of a certain juror did not violate Defendant's right to a fair and impartial jury. On appeal, Defendant argued that the seating of an alleged biased juror violated his right to a fair and impartial jury under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the trial judge conducted a sufficient colloquy with the juror to determine that he would not be a biased juror; and (2) the defense that the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of proof was without merit, and this Court declines to reduce the degree of guilt or order a new trial under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Lee" 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 felony-murder and armed robbery and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The Court held (1) the trial judge violated Defendant’s right to confront witnesses by allowing the jury to be exposed to certain hearsay, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial judge erred by allowing a substitute expert witnesses to testify to a match between the defendant's DNA profile and one obtained from the victim's clothing, but the error did not result in a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) Defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective; and (4) government officials did not commit unconstitutional misconduct in the course of investigating and prosecuting Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Seino" 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 felony-murder and armed robbery and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The Court held (1) the trial judge violated Defendant’s right to confront witnesses by allowing the jury to be exposed to certain hearsay, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial judge erred by allowing a substitute expert witnesses to testify to a match between the defendant's DNA profile and one obtained from the victim's clothing, but the error did not result in a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) Defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective; and (4) government officials did not commit unconstitutional misconduct in the course of investigating and prosecuting Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Seino" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, five students who attend public schools in the city of Boston, failed to state a claim for relief in their complaint alleging that the charter school cap under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71, 89(i) violates the education clause and the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution because Plaintiffs were not able to attend public charter schools of their choosing. Plaintiffs sued the Secretary of Education, the chair and members of the board of secondary and elementary education, and the Commissioner of Education seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The motion judge granted the motion, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim under either the education clause or the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to allege facts suggesting not only that they had been deprived of an adequate education but that Defendants failed to fulfill their constitutionally prescribed duty to educate; and (2) there was no plausible set of facts that Plaintiffs could prove to support a conclusion that the charter school cap did not have a rational basis. View "Doe No. 1 v. Secretary of Education" on Justia Law

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The absolute prohibition against civilian possession of stun guns under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 131J violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant was charged with possession of a stun gun, among other crimes. Defendant to dismissed that count of the complaint, arguing that section 131J’s criminal prohibition of the possession of stun guns by civilians violates the Second Amendment. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the district court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss and directed the judge to allow the motion, holding (1) stun guns are “arms” within the protection of the Second Amendment and therefore may be regulated but not absolutely banned; (2) consequently, the absolute prohibition in section 131J that bars all civilians from possessing or carrying stun guns, even in their home, violates the Second Amendment; and (3) section 131J in its current form is facially invalid. View "Ramirez v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s two convictions of murder in the first degree, holding that none of Defendant’s allegations of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the pretrial motion judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to Canadian law enforcement officers; (2) the trial judge did not commit reversible error in ordering the pretrial disclosure of Defendant’s mental health expert’s report, which the prosecution had in its possession during its subsequent cross-examination of Defendant; (3) the evidence at trial did not demonstrate Defendant’s lack of criminal responsibility for the murders; (4) defense counsel did not provide ineffective assistance; and (5) State police investigators did not deny Defendant his right to a complete defense when they failed to collect certain evidence relevant to Defendant’s intoxication at the time of the crimes. View "Commonwealth v. Wright" on Justia Law

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The police in this case had the authority to stop and perform a Terry-type search of a motor vehicle after an anonymous 911 caller reported that the driver of the vehicle threatened the caller, a fellow motorist, with a gun. Defendant, the driver of the vehicle at issue, was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon. On appeal, Defendant argued that the police lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle, and therefore, the trial court should have suppressed the pellet gun found in his vehicle. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the information possessed by the police gave them reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop and perform a protective sweep of Defendant’s vehicle; (2) given the safety concerns of the police, reasonable suspicion was all that was required; and (3) therefore, the motion judge properly denied the motion to suppress. View "Commonwealth v. Manha" on Justia Law

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The police in this case had the authority to stop and perform a Terry-type search of a motor vehicle after an anonymous 911 caller reported that the driver of the vehicle threatened the caller, a fellow motorist, with a gun. Defendant, the driver of the vehicle at issue, was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon. On appeal, Defendant argued that the police lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle, and therefore, the trial court should have suppressed the pellet gun found in his vehicle. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the information possessed by the police gave them reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop and perform a protective sweep of Defendant’s vehicle; (2) given the safety concerns of the police, reasonable suspicion was all that was required; and (3) therefore, the motion judge properly denied the motion to suppress. View "Commonwealth v. Manha" on Justia Law