Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The phrase “serious bodily harm” in the youthful offender statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 54 contemplates harm to human beings, not animals. A grand jury returned two youthful offender indictments against Juvenile, charging him with cruelty to animals and bestiality. The juvenile court allowed Juvenile’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the phrase “serious bodily harm” in the youthful offender statute refers only to human victims. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the “serious bodily harm” referenced in the statute does not apply to animals, and therefore, Juvenile’s conduct did not meet the requirements of the statute. View "Commonwealth v. J.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of felony murder, with the predicate felony of armed home invasion and declined to exercise its extraordinary authority to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdict to a lesser degree of guilt. The court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; (2) there was no reversible error in the trial court’s evidentiary rulings concerning the introduction of testimony about DNA found on objects at the crime scene and testimony concerning the use of a DNA profile of the defendant stored in a national database; and (3) the motion judge did not reversibly err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the ground that the Commonwealth did not provide exculpatory evidence concerning a forensic scientist’s failure to pass required proficiency tests. View "Commonwealth v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of a single justice of the county court denying Petitioner’s petition for relief from the trial judge’s denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment against him for armed robbery while masked after the Commonwealth’s closing argument led to a mistrial. Specifically, Petitioner argued that the principles of double jeopardy barred his retrial because (1) the Commonwealth did not present sufficient evidence to support a guilty finding; or (2) alternatively, the prosecutor’s misconduct warranted a dismissal of the indictment. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the Commonwealth proved each element of the crime; and (2) none of the evidence presented by Petitioner rose to the level of proving that the prosecutor engaged in “intentional” misconduct by knowingly making a false statement to the jury. View "Brangan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of masked armed robbery and of being a subsequent offender, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a showup identification procedure was so unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to misidentification as to deny him the due process of law; and (2) the trial judge did not commit prejudicial error in denying Defendant’s motion to preclude the victim from making an in-court identification. In so holding, the court declined to extend its holding in Commonwealth v. Collins, 21 NE 3d 528 (Mass. 2014) to preclude all in-court identifications preceded by out-of-court showup identification procedures. View "Commonwealth v. Dew" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion for postconviction testing of evidence, holding that thad Defendant failed to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his motion met the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 7(b)(3) and (4). Defendant sought testing of four cigarette butts collected by investigators near the crime scene. The trial judge found that Defendant failed to meet his burden under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 178A, 7(b) to establish that a reasonably effective defense attorney would have sought testing of the evidence, and that DNA testing had the potential to result in evidence material to the identity of the perpetrator. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Defendant’s motion. View "Commonwealth v. Moffat" 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 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 affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. On direct appeal, the court held (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress certain computer evidence; (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in declining to exclude evidence related to Defendant’s computer username and Internet search results, Defendant’s prior bad acts, and the victim’s statements and e-mail messages; (3) any misstatement made by the prosecutor during closing argument was not so great that it created a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (4) the trial judge’s instruction to the jury permitting them to infer an intent to kill based on the use of poison properly instructed the jury on the use of dangerous weapons. View "Commonwealth v. Keown" 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 on a theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty. The court also denied Defendant’s motion for a reduced verdict and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The court held (1) there was no error committed by trial counsel, the trial judge or the prosecutor that created a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (2) there was no reason to remand Defendant’s case to the superior court for renewed consideration of his motion to reduce the verdict or to grant him relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Kolenovic" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In a jury trial of an operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OUI) case, a trial judge should not give a jury instruction that specifically mentions the absence of breathalyzer or other alcohol-test evidence unless the defendant requests it. Defendant was convicted of one count of OUI. During trial, the jury was instructed about the absence of alcohol-test evidence in the judge’s final instructions over Defendant’s objection. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the conviction and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) giving the objected-to instruction regarding alcohol-test evidence constituted error; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the error was prejudicial. View "Commonwealth v. Wolfe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law