Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the district court's denial of Defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint charging unlawful possession of a firearm on constitutional grounds and denied Defendant's request for a new trial on the grounds of alleged errors in the jury instructions and asserted improper questioning of a witness by the prosecutor, holding that there was not a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice in this case. Defendant, a firearm owner licensed to carry firearms in New Hampshire, did not obtain a Massachusetts firearm license within the statutory time period for new residents. Defendant was convicted of firearm-related offenses. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss where there was no doubt that Defendant lacked a Massachusetts firearm license and that Defendant could have applied for such a license within the statutory period filling his arrival in the Commonwealth; (2) Defendant suffered no prejudice from the jury instructions he challenged on appeal; and (3) the question the prosecutor posed to the witness in this case did not create a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. View "Commonwealth v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the motion judge's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress and Defendant's convictions of breaking and entering and larceny, holding that the Commonwealth's act of accessing and reviewing historical GPS location data recorded from a GPS monitoring device that was attached to Defendant as a condition of his probation was not a search in the constitutional sense. Specifically, the Court held (1) although the original imposition of GPS monitoring as a condition of Defendant's probation was a search, it was reasonable in light of Defendant's criminal history and apparent willingness to recidivate while on probation; (2) once the GPS device was attached to Defendant, he did not possess a reasonable expectation of privacy in data targeted by police to determine his whereabouts; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's convictions of breaking and entering in the nighttime and larceny over $250. View "Commonwealth v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the Supreme Judicial Court held that, as applied to Defendant, GPS monitoring as a condition of Defendant's probation was an unconstitutional search under article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. Defendant was convicted of possession and distribution of child pornography. The terms of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 47 requires judges to impose GPS monitoring as a condition of probation for individuals convicted of most sex offenses. In accordance with the statute, the sentencing judge imposed GPS monitoring as a condition of Defendant's probation. Defendant appealed, arguing that, as applied to him, the condition of mandatory GPS monitoring constituted an unconstitutional unreasonable search. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 47 is over inclusive in that GPS monitoring will not necessarily constitute a reasonable search for all individuals convicted of a qualifying sex offense; (2) to comport with article 14, prior to imposing GPS monitoring on a defendant, a judge is required to conduct a balancing test weighing the Commonwealth's need to impose GPS monitoring against the defendant's privacy invasion arising by the monitoring; and (3) in the instant case, the Commonwealth's particularized reasons for imposing GPS monitoring on Defendant did not outweigh the privacy invasion that GPS monitoring entails. View "Commonwealth v. Feliz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendants’ convictions of murder in the first degree by reason of extreme atrocity or cruelty and felony-murder and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdicts, holding that no prejudicial error occurred. The defendants in this case were Alexander Gallett and Michel St. Jean. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed their convictions, holding (1) the motion judge did err in failing to suppress statements that Gallett made to police during his interrogation; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support St. Jean’s murder conviction; (3) St. Jean was not prejudiced by the admission of statements from Gallett’s redacted police interrogation; (4) the judge did not err in denying St. Jean’s requests for various jury instructions; (5) the trial judge did not improperly invoke juror sympathy; (6) there was no prejudicial error in limiting the cross-examination of certain witnesses; and (7) it was not reversible error for the judge to decline to give a humane practice jury instruction. View "Commonwealth v. Gallett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial court affirmed the district court judge’s order allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress narcotics seized from Defendant’s crotch area as a result of a strip search that took place in a cell at a police station, holding that police did not have probable cause to believe that Defendant had concealed narcotics somewhere on his person so as to justify conducting a strip search. Specifically, the Court held that, based on the facts of this case, the officers had, at best, a reasonable suspicion that Defendant could be concealing contraband in his crotch, but because there was no affirmative indication that Defendant was secreting contraband in his groin area, the police lacked probable cause to conduct a strip search of Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Agogo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to suppress in this case concerning the scope of the emergency aid exception and the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a warrant on the ground that the warrant was predicated on observations made during an unconstitutional warrantless search. The superior court allowed the motion. The appeals court reversed, concluding that the warrantless search was permissible under the emergency aid doctrine. The Supreme Court granted further appellate review and affirmed the order allowing the motion to suppress, holding (1) the warrantless search was not justified under the emergency aid exception; and (2) the search was not justified under the probable cause and exigent circumstances exception. View "Commonwealth v. Arias" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the trial judge’s denial of the Commonwealth’s renewed motion filed pursuant to Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt, 468 Mass. 512 (2014), and remanded for entry of an order compelling Defendant to enter a password into a cell phone seized from Defendant at the time of his arrest, holding that the motion judge abused his discretion in denying the Commonwealth’s motion. Defendant was charged with, among other things, trafficking a person for sexual servitude. The Commonwealth was granted a search warrant to search the cell phone found on Defendant, but the cell phone’s contents could only be accessed with the entry of a password. At issue was whether requiring Defendant to enter the cell phone’s password would violate his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. A trial judge concluded that the Commonwealth failed to prove that Defendant’s knowledge of the password was a “foregone conclusion” under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and denied the Commonwealth’s motion and renewed motion to compel Defendant to produce the password. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that Defendant’s knowledge of the password was a foregone conclusion and not subject to the protections of the Fifth Amendment and article 12. View "Commonwealth v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of possession of a class B substance with intent to distribute, holding that although the voir dire in this case was incomplete, it did not prejudice Defendant. During jury selection, and over Defendant’s objection, the judge excused for cause a prospective juror who said that it was her opinion that “the system is rigged against young African American males.” On appeal, Defendant argued that the judge abused his discretion in dismissing the prospective juror. While the Supreme Court declined to set aside the verdict, the Court took the opportunity to set forth the factors a judge should consider when a prospective juror states a belief or opinion based on his or her world view. View "Commonwealth v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge in this case allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress his postarrest statements, holding that the police lacked probable cause to arrest. Defendant was charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle, subsequent offense, and receiving stolen property over $250 in connection with items found in a stolen motor vehicle. Defendant filed a motion to suppress his postarrest statements on the grounds that the police lacked probable cause to arrest. The motion judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause that Defendant knew the vehicle was stolen, which is a requisite element of the crime of receiving a stolen motor vehicle. View "Commonwealth v. Pridgett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s requests for an instruction on accident and on involuntary manslaughter; (2) the absence of an instruction on voluntary manslaughter did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) this Court was not required to apply the theory of transferred intent self-defense to correct a miscarriage of justice; (4) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial based on the erroneous deprivation of two preemptory challenges; (5) a police officer’s identification testimony, even if erroneous, was not prejudicial; and (6) trial counsel’s failure to present an intoxication defense through available witnesses did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Pina" on Justia Law