Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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To sustain a conviction of unlawful possession of a loaded firearm under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, 10(n) the Commonwealth must prove that a defendant knew the firearm he or she possessed was loaded. Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of a loaded firearm. The Appeals Court vacated Defendant’s conviction for possession of a loaded firearm, concluding that the Commonwealth was required to, but did not, prove Defendant’s knowledge that the firearm was loaded. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the Appeals Court, holding (1) the Commonwealth presented no evidence that could allow a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant knew the firearm was loaded, and therefore, Defendant’s conviction for possession of a loaded firearm without a license could not stand; and (2) the Commonwealth’s closing argument did not create a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice, and therefore, Defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm without a license was not erroneous. View "Commonwealth v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge’s conclusion that Defendant had violated his probation by committing child enticement, holding that Defendant’s constitutional right to present a defense was not violated and that the exclusion of certain statements did not create a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. On appeal, Defendant contended that the judge’s sua sponte ruling excluding the admission of certain evidence as violative of the psychotherapist-patient privilege violated his constitutional right to present a defense. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s ruling that the psychotherapist-patient privilege applied to the evidence at issue was erroneous because there was no evidence that the privilege would have been applicable under the circumstances; but (2) the excluded evidence was of minimal probative value, and the Commonwealth presented overwhelming evidence that Defendant committed the crime of child enticement. View "Commonwealth v. Pickering" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 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 for murder in the first degree on the theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The Court held that the trial judge did not err by (1) allowing evidence of Defendant’s prior bad act; (2) permitting the prosecutor to comment in her closing argument on omissions in Defendant’s statement to a police officer; (3) failing to provide sua sponte a jury instruction addressing the omissions; and ($) providing a consciousness of guilt instruction. Further, the Court declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce or set aside the verdict of murder int he first degree. View "Commonwealth v. Almeida" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 of possession of a large capacity firearm and large capacity feeding devices. On appeal, Defendant argued that his convictions should be overturned because the Commonwealth failed to prove that Defendant knew the firearm and feeding devices he possessed qualified as “large capacity” - that they were capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. The Court held that to sustain a conviction of possession of large capacity feeding devices, the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant either knew the firearm or feeding device met the legal definition of "large capacity" or knew it was capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. In this case, the judge adequately instructed the jury on the elements necessary to sustain the conviction, and a reasonable jury could have inferred that Defendant knew that the nine millimeter pistol and magazines Defendant possessed were capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. Lastly, Defendant failed to show a violation of his rights under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution or article 17 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. View "Commonwealth v. Cassidy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s motion for a new trial and remanded this case for an evidentiary hearing, holding that an evidentiary hearing was necessary under the circumstances of this case. Defendant was convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial arguing that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by pursuing an impracticable third-party culprit defense rather than defenses based on Defendant’s mental health or intoxication. The motion judge denied the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that an evidentiary hearing was necessary in order to determine whether trial counsel’s strategy was reasonable in light of Defendant’s particular mental health history. View "Commonwealth v. Velez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the trial judge granting Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding that the judge did not err in concluding that an affidavit by a deceased affiant was admissible and was newly discovered evidence that cast real doubt on the justice of Defendant’s convictions. Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree. The Commonwealth’s case against Defendant depended largely upon the testimony of James Jackson. Later, Debra Bell stated in an affidavit that Jackson could not have witnessed the shooting because he was in the bathroom with her at the relevant time. Bell died shortly after providing the affidavit. Defendant moved for a new trial, arguing that the affidavit was newly discovered evidence, but the trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a hearing to determine whether Bell’s affidavit fell within the exception to the hearsay rule that applies where otherwise inadmissible hearsay is critical to the defense and bears persuasive guarantees of trustworthiness. On remand, a different judge determined that the affidavit fell within the exception and granted the motion for a new trial. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the motion judge did not err in allowing Defendant’s motion for a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Drayton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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