Boston Criminal Lawyers Blog
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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently considered a defendant’s challenge that his second degree murder conviction should be overturned because his constitutional rights were violated when the trial judge refused to grant immunity to potential defense witnesses. In the case of Commonwealth v. Brewer, although the SJC affirmed the defendant’s conviction, the court left open the issue of defendant’s, as opposed to only the government, having a means to offer immunity to potential witnesses.

In this case, the victim had been shot after leaving a party, though the evidence suggested that he was not the intended target of the shooting. The government called three witnesses who claimed the defendant was the shooter, one of whom was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony. The defense, however, attacked these witnesses’ credibility and asserted that one of these three witnesses was actually the shooter.

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently rejected the Commonwealth’s appeal from the suppression of drug evidence by the trial court, holding that the judge properly suppressed the drugs seized from the defendant because the Boston Police conducted an unlawful search and seizure of his person.

In the case of Commonwealth v. Johnny Evans, the defendant challenged the stop by the police and claimed that he was subjected to an unlawful search and seizure, despite the recovery of cocaine. The judge who heard the defendant’s motion to suppress agreed, ruling that the stop was unconstitutional, and suppressed the cocaine.

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In a recent appeal from the defendant’s conviction for assault & battery for spanking his child, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the father should have been permitted to assert at trial the ‘parental privilege’ defense.  See Commonwealth v. Dorvil.

In this case, the defendant was charged and convicted with assault & battery for spanking his daughter, who was almost three years old at the time.  At trial, the defendant argued that the evidence against him was insufficient to convict him for the crime of assault & battery because, as a parent, he had a privilege to use force in order to discipline his minor child.  The Appeals Court first considered the issue and denied his appeal.  The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court thereafter considered the issue and reversed his conviction. Continue reading →

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As you may have heard in the news lately, former New England Patriot and NFL player Brandon Spikes’ Mercedes was involved in an accident on I-495 in Foxboro, Massachusetts last week. According to the Massachusetts State Police, Spikes’ Mercedes was allegedly speeding when it crashed into the rear of a SUV. The Mercedes was located further along the road in the early morning hours after the vehicle’s roadside assistance indicated that the driver reported hitting a deer.

The driver who spoke with roadside assistance was apparently not identified; and none was in the vehicle when it was located. The New England Patriots then released Brandon Spikes later that day.

Massachusetts State Police report they will now summons the former New England Patriot into Wrentham District Court and charge him with several criminal motor vehicle violations, including Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Personal Injury and Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle. But do they even have a case?

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in the case of Commonwealth v. Brescia, affirmed a judge’s allowance of the defendant’s motion for new trial on the grounds of, because of the defendant’s having had an undetected stroke during the course of his testimony, this medical condition could have affected his credibility before the jury.

James Brescia was tried in the Middlesex Superior Court in 2006, charged with murder in the shooting death of a man whom he believed was having an affair with his wife.  The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office alleged that the defendant had hired an assassin to kill his wife.  During trial, the defendant elected to testify in his own defense; and he was cross-examined by the prosecution over two days.

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently ruled that it is reversible error and improper for a prosecutor to suggest the defendant had the opportunity to tailor his testimony and lie because he had heard the other witnesses during trial.  This issue was addressed in Commonwealth v. Alphonse, and because the error was reversible, the defendant’s conviction was reversed.

The defendant was tried for the crime of assault & battery in the Brockton District Court.  During closing arguments, the prosecutor argued:

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered whether evidence or documents that were provided to an attorney by the client are obtainable by prosecutors from the attorney via subpoena.  The question, the court ruled, depends on whether or not the the evidence was provided to the attorney for purposes of legal assistance.

This case involved circumstances where the defendant was the subject of a grand jury investigation who, in the course of seeking legal advice, had given his phone to his lawyer.  The government, on behalf of the grand jury, obtained an order from a superior court judge ordering the attorney to produce the phone so that the grand jury could examine its contents.  The attorney refused to honor the superior court judge’s ordering him to do so and the appeal reached the Supreme Judicial Court. Continue reading →

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court addressed the issue whether a defendant, who was the object of the police investigation, may still move to suppress evidence seized from the co-defendant under the theory of “target standing”.  Target standing is a legal theory that permits a defendant, who is charged with a possessory offense, such as unlawful possession of drugs or guns, to challenge the lawfulness of the seizure of that evidence even though it may have been seized by police from a co-defendant or other third-party.

In the case of Commonwealth v. Santiago, the SJC held that, a challenge to the suppression of evidence on the theory of target standing does not apply unless the defendant is charged with a possessory offense, even though he may have been the primary suspect in the police investigation. Continue reading →

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In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Walter Crayton, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court established a new standard for the admission at trial of an in-court identification of the defendant where the witness had not, prior to trial, been asked to participate in an out of court identification procedure.  The new rule imposes the burden on the Commonwealth to request. prior to trial, that the prospective witness be permitted to make an in-court identification if there has not been any previous identification of the defendant.

Once the prosecutor makes this request, the burden remains on the defendant to establish that the proposed in-court identification would be “unnecessarily suggestive” and that there would be no “good reason” for it.  Examples of “good reason” for the first identification procedure by a witness against a defendant at trial may include circumstances where the eyewitness was familiar with the defendant before the commission of the crime; or where the eyewitness was the arresting officer.  In other words, circumstances where the witness and the defendant were known to one another or where the identity of the defendant is not a live issue at trial – where the witness is not identifying the defendant based solely on his memory of witnesses the defendant at the time of the incident and therefore, little risk of misidentification from the in-court show-up. Continue reading →

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently suppressed evidence in a case that was seized as a result from an arrest by Boston Police based on mistaken information.  In the case of Commonwealth v. Maingrette, the Appeals Court ruled that the arrest, based on a default warrant that was no longer active at the time of the defendant’s arrest, was unlawful and evidence seized as a result must be suppressed.

When “an arrest is wrongly made on the basis of mistaken information chargeable solely to the police, the burden is on the government to show that i twas not at fault in the circumstances” and that the mistake was reasonable.”

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