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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 the superior court’s judgment convicting Defendant of five charges stemming from the sexual abuse his two daughters. Specifically, the court held (1) the superior court judge did not abuse his discretion by refusing to issue summonses pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 17(a)(2) regarding the release of the mental health and counseling record of the younger of the daughters; and (2) the judge’s restriction of Defendant’s cross-examination of the younger daughter listing the defense from referencing “bad character” or “bad acts” of the daughter was not an abuse of discretion. View "Commonwealth v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether municipal parkland may be protected by Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution where the land was not taken by eminent domain and where there is no restriction recorded in the registry of deeds that limits its use to conservation or recreational purposes. The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative, provided the land has been dedicated as a public park. Further, a municipality dedicates land as a public park where there is a clear and unequivocal intent to dedicate the land permanently as a public park and where the public accepts such use by actually using the land as a public park. Given this conclusion, the park in this case was dedicated by the city as a public park such that the transfer of its use from a park to a school would require legislative approval under the prior public use doctrine and, thus, under article 97. View "Smith v. City of Westfield" 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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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this divorce action to the probate and family court with instructions to reevaluate the alimony judgment in light of this opinion and enter a new judgment accordingly. The court held (1) where the supporting spouse has the ability to pay, the need for support of the recipient spouse under general term alimony is the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she had at the time of the separation leading to the divorce, not the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she would have had in the future if the couple had not divorced; and (2) although there might be circumstances where it is reasonable a fair to award a percentage of the supporting spouse’s income as general term alimony to the recipient spouse, those circumstances were not present in this case. View "Young v. Young" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court addressed the scope of criminal liability under the common-law felony-murder rule. A unanimous court concluded that the felony-murder rule is constitutional, but a majority of justices concluded that the scope of felony-murder liability should be prospectively narrowed. The court held that, in trials that commence after the date of the opinion in this case, a defendant may not be convicted of murder without proof of one of the three prongs of malice. The court held that, in the future, felony-murder is no longer an independent theory of liability for murder but is rather limited to its statutory role under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 1 as an aggravating element of murder. The majority ruled that this holding is prospective in effect and therefore does not affect the judgment reached in this case, where Defendant was convicted of two counts of felony-murder in the first degree based on the predicate felonies of an attempted commission of armed robbery, home invasion, unlawful possession of a firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition. View "Commonwealth v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s convictions of two charges of possession of the ingredients to make an incendiary device or substance with the intent to do so, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, 102(a), and remanded the matter for entry of required findings of not guilty, holding that the evidence presented at trial was not sufficient to establish every element of the Commonwealth’s case. Specifically, the court held that the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to establish that Defendant was without lawful authority to possess three bags of different powders or the incidendiary substance, thermite, that the Commonwealth asserted that Defendant intended to make. View "Commonwealth v. Aldana" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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To the extent that field sobriety tests (FSTs) are relevant to establish a driver’s balance, coordination, mental acuity, and other skills required to operate a motor vehicle safely, FSTs are admissible at trial as observations of the police officer conducting the assessment. However, neither a police officer nor a lay witness who has not been qualified as an expert may offer an opinion as to whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana. Defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana. Defendant filed a motion for a Daubert-Lanigan hearing seeking to challenge the admissibility of evidence concerning his performance on FSTs conducted after the stop. The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the matter and then answered the reported questions as set forth above and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. Gerhardt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue in this case was the construction of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156D, 14.30, the corporate dissolution statute, which allows a shareholder to petition a judge of the superior court to dissolve a corporation in the event of a deadlock between its directors. Plaintiff and Defendant were the sole shareholders and directors of a corporation. Plaintiff filed a petition pursuant to the corporate dissolution statute seeking to dissolve the corporation. After a jury-waived trial, Plaintiff also filed a separate claim for contempt of court. Defendant counterclaimed. A judge rejected all of Plaintiff’s claims and Defendant’s counterclaims. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matters, holding (1) the impasse as to fundamental matters of corporate governance and operations existing under these circumstances gave rise to a state of “true deadlock” such that the remedy of dissolution provided by the statute was allowable; (2) because dissolution is a discretionary remedy, the superior court must make a determination as to whether it is the appropriate remedy under the circumstances; and (3) the superior court must consider the allegations raised in the complaint for contempt concerning conduct that occurred after the trial. View "Koshy v. Sachdev" on Justia Law