Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on the theories of premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. Defendant’s defense was that a third party killed the victim while Defendant was unconscious due to severe intoxication. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction, holding (1) any prejudice in the admission into evidence of recorded telephone calls made on the day of the murder between Defendant and his girlfriend was cured by the judge; (2) the admission of a medical record showing that Defendant tested negative for any drugs was error, but Defendant suffered no risk of a miscarriage of justice; (3) counsel did not provide ineffective assistance; (4) the trial judge did not err in instructing the jury that there is no “legal limit” of intoxication for any purposes other than determining whether one is guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; and (5) Defendant’s claim that his right to a public trial during jury empaneled was violated was waived. View "Commonwealth v. Wall" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted kidnapping and of accosting or annoying a person of the opposite sex. The Appeals Court reversed the judgment on the indictment charging accosting or annoying a person of the opposite sex, concluding that because the Commonwealth failed to demonstrate that Defendant’s conduct involved “sexually explicit language or acts,” the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of proving that Defendant’s conduct was “offensive.” The Supreme Judicial affirmed the judgment of conviction on the indictment charging accosting or annoying a person of the opposite sex, holding (1) the jury properly could have found the elements of accosting or annoying a person of the opposite sex beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) Defendant’s counsel provided effective assistance pertaining to his conviction of accosting or annoying a person of the opposite sex. View "Commonwealth v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, armed robbery, and related offenses. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor’s several references to his initial invocation of his right to remain silent violated his constitutional due process rights. The Appeals Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the prosecutor’s references to Defendant’s invocation of his rights as set forth in Miranda v. Arizona at trial constituted error; but (2) under the circumstances of this case, the improper references did not raise a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. View "Commonwealth v. Letkowski" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on the theory of deliberate premeditation, arson of a dwelling house, and attempted murder of thirteen persons arising from Defendant’s act of setting fire to a curtain in the first-floor apartment of a three-story house. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part and affirmed in part, holding that the trial judge erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress certain statements she made to police during two interviews, and the error was not harmless with respect to the convictions of murder in the first degree and attempted murder but was harmless with respect to the conviction of arson of a dwelling house. Remanded. View "Commonwealth v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree. A panels of the Appeals Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial under Mass. R. Crim. P. 36 because Defendant acquiesced in certain delays, failed to object to every continuance sought by the Commonwealth, did not press a motion to compel the production of mandatory discovery, and otherwise engaged in ordinary motion practice; and (2) the prosecutor made improper remarks during closing argument, but the remarks did not constitute reversible error. View "Commonwealth v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to eleven counts of possessing child pornography, one of the sex offenses enumerated in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 47 that requires a defendant convicted of such an offense to be subject to global positioning system (GPS) monitoring as a condition of any term of probation. Such monitoring was not imposed as part of Defendant’s sentence. Almost one year after Defendant was sentenced, the Commonwealth sought correction of Defendant’s sentence by the addition of GPS monitoring as a condition of Defendant’s sentence. The sentencing judge allowed the Commonwealth’s motion. Defendant subsequently filed a motion to vacate the modified sentence, arguing, among other things, that the delayed imposition of GPS monitoring violated the prohibition against double jeopardy. Defendant’s motion was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order imposing GPS monitoring on Defendant, holding (1) Defendant’s initial sentence was illegal insofar as it did not include GPS monitoring as a condition of Defendant’s probation; but (2) under the circumstances of this case, the belated correction of Defendant’s sentence contravened Defendant’s legitimate expectation of finality in the terms of his initial sentence in violation of principles of double jeopardy. View "Commonwealth v. Selavka" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to several offenses, including the dissemination of visual material depicting a child in a state of nudity or sexual conduct, one of the sex offenses involving a child enumerated in Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 265, 47 that requires a defendant convicted of such an offense to be subject to global positioning system (GPS) monitoring as a condition of any term of probation. The sentencing judge in this case declined to require that Defendant wear a GPS device as a condition of probation. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the failure to include GPS monitoring as a condition of Defendant’s probation was error, where (1) a sentencing judge has no discretion whether to impose GPS monitoring on a defendant sentenced to a probationary term for an enumerated offense; and (2) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 47 does not violate Defendant’s due process rights. View "Commonwealth v. Guzman" on Justia Law

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A homeless man died after being stabbed in the alcove of a storefront. Two young women identified Defendant as the perpetrator. Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on the theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in permitting the introduction of state of mind evidence where the judge provided numerous limiting instructions; (2) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress identifications and his motion for a required finding of not guilty; (3) Defendant was not denied timely access to footage of surveillance videotapes in a way that prejudiced the preparation of his defense; (4) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Defendant’s request to recall the two percipient witnesses; and (5) Defendant’s claim that the Commonwealth knowingly procured false testimony was without merit. View "Commonwealth v. Forte" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation, extreme atrocity or cruelty, and felony murder. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that in litigating his motions to suppress, he should have been afforded “target standing” to challenge the violation of his alleged coventurers’ constitutional rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions, holding (1) even assuming the availability of target standing, Defendant was properly denied target standing to challenge the violations of his coventurers’ constitutional rights; (2) the witness immunity statute was constitutional as applied to Defendant; (3) certain identification testimony was improperly admitted into evidence, but the improper testimony was not prejudicial; and (4) the trial judge erred in failing to give an instruction pursuant to Commonwealth v. DiGiambattista, but the error was not prejudicial. View "Commonwealth v. Vacher" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, asserting multiple claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, and requested an evidentiary hearing. The trial judge denied the motion without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction and the denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance; (2) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant an evidentiary hearing on his motion for a new trial; and (3) there was no substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice in the trial judge’s failure to make written findings. View "Commonwealth v. Torres" on Justia Law