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A defendant convicted on a drug possession charge challenged the legality of using drug-sniffing dogs for probable cause for a strip search. The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the conviction of the defendant and the use of the drug-sniffing dog alert as probable cause to strip search in Commonwealth v. Elijah Judge.

Defendant was spotted by police with a group of people in a downtown Hyannis hotel parking lot. Police considered this spot a “problem property,” and knew it to be a location where police had previous narcotics investigations. Police watched the defendant for about an hour, and approximately 3 AM, the officer saw a woman and the defendant standing by the trunk of his car and looking around as if they were “conducting counter surveillance.”  The officer also saw the defendant and the woman took something out of the trunk and put into the front of the car.

Believing he witnessed a drug transaction, the police officer called for backup. While waiting for backup, the police officer went to the car and turned on his lights. When approaching the car, he saw a “white powdery substance” on the center console of the car.

Can an Attorney Represent Co-defendants? United States Supreme Court May Decide.

In many states, it is legal for two co-defendants in a crime to retain the same attorney. However, this is not the ideal situation because it is ripe for conflicts of interest. Co-defendants in a criminal case likely have information about the other defendant that can be detrimental to their case and will oftentimes “flip” on their codefendant. It can be difficult for an attorney to represent both codefendants competently and diligently as required. The American Bar Association advises against representing co-defendants, but there is no general law forbidding it. The Supreme Court could change this. The case of Holcombe v. Florida is pending before the Supreme Court and asks the Court whether an “actual” conflict of interest that adversely affects counsel’s representation when the attorney engages in “joint and dual” representation – i.e., simultaneously representing both the defendant and a key prosecution witness during a trial. 

What happened in Holcombe v. Florida?

Awaking the Giant Within is one of the best books on life and motivation.  This is a great book for a number of reasons.  This type of book would be in the category of self help or motivational and what it does it really allows you to see how your thoughts, word choice and experiences which he calls references points shape your life. And he applies this advice to help you control both your emotional, physical well being, relationships and financial goals.  

So much of success in life is dependent on being mentally sharp.  He states that:   

3 decisions that control your destiny are:

Patients that have received terminal diagnoses, such as cancer, frequently worry about end-of-life care and options. An option that is becoming permitted in states such as Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Colorado, California, Hawaii, Maine and New Jersey is physician assisted suicide or Medical Aid in Dying (MAID). Physicians and patients in Massachusetts are challenging their right to be able to use this practice as an option of end-of-life care in Kliger v. Healey.

What are current options that terminally ill patients currently have?

The most common option the terminally ill have are to be administered strong narcotics that are provided to help with pain and suffering, but have side effects of deceased mental alertness, and are not always strong enough.

When Can a Defendant Waive Their Right to a Jury Trial? 

Most of us know that there is a fundamental right to a jury trial. However, there is also a right to waive a jury trial. The case of Commonwealth v. Gebo is pending before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and involves a defendant who wanted to waive her right to a jury on the day of trial. 

In April of 2017, Homer Gebo was watching the news and drinking coffee in his home. His wife, the defendant, went into the kitchen. A fight ensued between them, and the defendant picked up a plastic chair and hit Mr. Gebo’s arm. Mr. Gebo grabbed the chair and threw it. The defendant then hit Mr. Gebo in the head with a ladle. He passed out for 10-12 seconds and then awoke. Confused, Mr. Gebo asked what had happened and why the defendant hit him. She told him that he had a heart attack. 

Is Solitary Confinement Torture? United States Supreme Court May Decide.

 The United Nations considers solitary confinement exceeding 15 days to be torture, however solitary confinement is a popular method of inmate discipline in American prisons. Solitary confinement is also used for an inmate’s own safety if the inmate’s case was high profile or if the inmate has a higher chance of being injured by the other inmates. Dennis Wayne Hope has been in solitary confinement for 27 years. Hope v. Harris may be a turning point for prison reform if it reaches the United States Supreme Court.

What happened in the Hope case?

United States Supreme Court Reinstates Death Penalty for Boston Marathon Bomber

The Boston Marathon bombings were a tragic act of domestic terrorism. Brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two homemade pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding hundreds more. The three individuals who died, were two young women and an eight year old boy. They all bled to death after being hit with materials from the bomb. Many of those who were injured lost limbs. In the aftermath of the attacks, the brothers fled and murdered a MIT campus police officer, and got into an altercation with police which resulted in Dzhokhar accidently killing Tamerlan. Dzhokhar was indicted for 30 crimes, including 17 capital offenses. After a lengthy and publicized trial, Dzhokhar was sentenced to death. However the Court of Appeals vacated this decision after finding that the District Court abused its discretion during jury selection by declining to ask about the kind and degree of each prospective juror’s media exposure and that the District Court abused its discretion during sentencing when it excluded evidence concerning Tamerlan’s possible involvement other murders. The Supreme Court took this case in United States v. Tsarnaev.

What happened in the Tsarnaev case?

What Makes a Defendant Intellectually Disabled? United States Supreme Court May Decide.

The Eighth Amendment of the constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. A punishment is considered cruel and unusual for many reasons, one of which is if the punishment is grossly disproportionate to the crime committed. In general, sentencing an intellectually disabled person to death is considered cruel and unusual punishment. The standard for providing an intellectual disability may soon change if the United States Supreme Court grants cert to the case of Commonwealth v. Knight

What happened in the Knight case? 

Does Business Insurance Cover Interruptions Caused by COVID-19? SJC May Decide.

Verveine Corporation operate three restaurants, The Coppa, Toro, and Little Donkey,  located in Boston and Cambridge and share common owners. For many years these businesses were covered by insurance. Like many restaurants, the plaintiff’s businesses were successful until March of 2020 when they suffered losses as a result of the pandemic and government shutdown that rendered their insured properties unusable and inaccessible. Faced with this issue, the plaintiffs submitted insurance claims for loss of business income. However, their request was quickly rejected by a form letter. In June of 2020, the plaintiffs filed suit against Strathmore, alleging breach of contract for its denial of coverage and seeking declaratory judgment for enforcement of the insurance policies in the case of Verveine Corp. v. Strathmore.

The policy provided Business Income and Extra Expense Coverage, which covered, loss of business income due to necessary suspension of business operations during the period of restoration. The suspension must be caused by direct physical loss of or damage to property.  One of the restaurants, the Little Donkey, even contained an “Exclusion of Loss Due to Virus or Bacteria” which states that the policy  will not cover “loss or damage caused by or resulting from any virus, bacterium or other microorganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease.”

Do You Have a Right to Privacy on Social Media?

Many of us have privacy settings on social media, and restrict access to friends and family. However, is this enough for a court to find a reasonable expectation of privacy? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court examined this question in Commonwealth v. Carrasquillo.

After accepting a friend request from an officer, the defendant posted a video to his social media that featured a person holding a gun. The undercover officer then recorded the post, which was later used in criminal proceedings against the defendant.

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