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Articles Posted in domestic assault and battery

How are Massachusetts Domestic Assault and Battery Cases prosecuted without the cooperation of the victim?  The case of Commonwealth v. Roy Rand, decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court on June 29, 2020 demonstrates how even without the victim testifying, prosecutors in Massachusetts can secure a conviction of domestic assault and battery.  The key piece of evidence is the 911 call which can come into evidence, despite the fact that you will not have the opportunity to cross examine the victim if the Court defines the call as non-testimonial.  The Rand cases discusses what makes a statement admissible under this rule and under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  

BACKGROUND OF THE RAND CASE

The defendant was charged with Strangulation and Domestic Assault and Battery.  The case was indicted and brought to the Superior Court.  This means that the incident must have been particularly vicious and or the defendant had a bad record as most Strangulation cases would stay in district court.  

The Massachusetts Appeals Courts defined the crime of Strangulation in a recent decision.  This is a felony offense which can be charged in a domestic assault and battery case.  In the recent Massachusetts Appeals Court decision in Commonwealth v. Rogers, Mass. App. Ct., No. 19-P-229, slip op. at December 31, 2019, the court reviewed a domestic assault and battery conviction and ruled that although there were not facts in evidence that the victim could not breathe during strangulation, there was sufficient evidence to infer that the defendant’s intentional grabbing of the victim’s neck interfered with the victim’s breathing, thus neck grabbing is strangulation.

This case involves a couple that had been dating for ten years and starts in Bourne, Massachusetts after a 911 call to police in 2018.  During that 911 call, the victim told dispatch that she had been “assaulted” by the defendant.   When police arrived at the couple’s home and spoke to the victim, police noticed marks on the victim’s neck and scratches on her chest.  Police took photos of the injuries and the photos were later used as evidence at trial.  During the trial, the victim testified that the defendant had grabbed her by the sweatshirt with one hand and around the neck with his other hand. The victim also stated that the defendant, while applying pressure to her neck, stood her up from the couch and threw her onto the floor.  The victim also told the jury that when the defendant had his hand around her neck, she felt pain and almost “peed [her] pants.”  When the defendant released his hand from her neck she coughed.  The trial ended in the defendant being convicted for strangulation.

The defendant appealed the conviction on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to support a strangulation conviction.  The defendant claimed that the evidence did not suggest that he touched the victim’s throat or neck, and further contended that there was no basis to conclude that his conduct interrupted the victim’s breathing. The defendant also challenged the inconsistencies in the victim’s statements.   During her testimony, the victim initially said that the defendant had his hand around her jaw line.  At other times in her testimony, the victim referred to the defendant having his hand on her “throat” and “neck.”  The trial record indicated that the victim had demonstrated the location of the defendant’s hand to the jury.

Video tape evidence in the domestic assault and battery incident involving Ray Rice became public today showing him punching his then fiancee in the face in an elevator. The release of the video caused the NFL to issue an indefinite suspension and also resulted in his release by the Baltimore Ravens. Players in the NFL via Twitter expressed outrage saying he should be banned from the NFL for life.

Prosecutor in Massachusetts domestic assault and battery charges are looking for video tape evidence to prosecutor domestic cases as it is prevalent in public places and even as a result of iPhone or cell phone cameras. In some cases, a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer may be able to content that video tape evidence does not show the complete picture. In this case, it would be a difficult argument to make as the video shows the couple both inside and outside of the elevator.

In a case involving a bar room fight, captured on video in part, a defendant may be able to claim that the video fails to show some act prior to the incident raising an issue of self defense. In this case, the video evidence would be difficult to overcome for a defense lawyer and may have allow the prosecution to proceed even if the criminal case was not resolved. The video in the Rice case would leave no room for interpretation, while it does not have sound, it does not appear it was anything other than an unprovoked an violent punch by Rice.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick recently signed into law a new senate act on domestic violence and sexual assaults. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 2334 – An Act relative to domestic violence, creates new criminal charges for domestic violence, requires the convening of special executive teams to investigate the causes and consequences of domestic violence across the state, and requires that funding be set aside for training state officers on handling domestic disputes.

Assault and Battery on Household Members

Section 26 of the Senate bill amended chapter 265 of the Massachusetts General Laws by creating several new criminal charges where none previously existed. For example, an assault or an assault and battery on a family or household member is now punishable by imprisonment in the house of correction for up to 2 ½ years and a fine of $5000. This sentence applies only to first time offenders; subsequent offenders are punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment in state prison.

One of the most common charges when a defendant is charged with a domestic assault and battery in Westborough, Massachusetts, is that the charge will also be accompanied by a charge of Witness Intimidation. The Massachusetts Appelals Court recently addressed the issue of what constitutes witness intimidation in the case of Commonwealth v. Rosario, decided on May 22, 2013. The case can be found by visiting the social law library website.

In the Rosario case, the defendant was facing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and four months after this incident confronted victim in the hallway of the courthouse. This encounter led to the additional charges of intimidation of a witness and threat to commit murder. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of witness intimidation.

On appeal, the defendant concedes that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that he threatened the victim and that victim was to be a witness against him in a criminal proceeding. He claims that this motion for a required finding of not guilty should have been allowed because the Commonwealth failed to establish that he possessed requisite intent “to impede, obstruct, delay, harm, punish or otherwise interfere” with a criminal proceeding.

When facing an assault and battery charge in Massachusetts a defendant may face the more severe charge of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury if the evidence shows the assault caused a serious bodily injury. This turns the assault and battery from a misdemeanor to a felony and carries significantly harsher punishment. The recent case of Commonwealth v. Scott was decided by the Supreme Judicial Court and faced the issue of what injuries are sufficient to be a serious bodily injury under G. L. c. 265 §13A(b).

Commonwealth v. Scott involved a defendant who went to his ex-girlfriend’s home to confront her. Defendant became violent during the time in the victim’s home. Defendant punched the victim in the face, stomach, threatened her with a knife and beat her with a can of soda. The victim suffered several injuries, the worst being a lacerated liver.

The defendant was convicted of several crimes like kidnapping and assault and battery, but because of the lacerated liver defendant was also convicted of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury. To constitute a serious bodily injury, the injury had to result in either (1) a permanent disfigurement; (2) loss or impairment of a bodily function, limb or organ or; (3) a substantial risk of death. The only question on this appeal was if there was enough evidence to show the injury caused an impairment of an organ. The court held that there was no sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that there was impairment.

A Massachusetts woman has been charged with two counts of felony stalking of the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, now president of the Chicago Cubs.

Media reports indicate the Canton woman was arrested a few blocks from Theo Epstein’s home, where she told police she was seeking him out to invite him to church. In and of itself that wouldn’t be a crime, but the woman had reportedly been warned about stalking his home.

Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers know that despite the headlines often made in cases of celebrity or high-profile stalking incidents, which often involve an element of mental illness, the majority of stalking allegations stem from a break-up or divorce.

In many cases, it can be a misunderstanding or one person just has a hard time letting go.

And the fact of the matter is, it’s fairly common. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports the following:

1. In the U.S., 14 out of every 1,000 people reported being victims of stalking;
2. For people who were divorced or separated, the rate of stalking was the highest – 34 out of every 1,000;
3. About 1 in 4 alleged stalking victims reported being the target of some form of cyberstalking, such as e-mail (more than 80 percent) or instant messaging (35 percent);

The penalties for a stalking conviction under Massachusetts law are serious.

Massachusetts law, specifically Part IV, Title I, Chapter 265, Section 43, addresses stalking and its punishments. This statute defines stalking as any willful and malicious engagement in a pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time that is directed at one person that either “seriously alarms” or “annoys” that person AND would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress. The law also similarly encompasses threats that are intended to make the person fear either imminent physical injury or death.

This is a felony, and if convicted, a person can serve up to five years in prison and pay up to a $1,000 fine.

A lot of times when we think of stalking, collectively we’re picturing someone physically following another person around with binoculars. But of course, that’s an antiquated notion (although it would still count) and the law now addresses various forms of electronic communication too.

For example, the conduct that would be considered stalking under the law includes any actions carried out or threats made by mail, phone, e-mail, faxes, instant messages or any other electronic or digital communication.

So for example, if your girlfriend breaks up with you and you send her a series of Facebook messages meant to intimidate her or threaten her – even after you’ve been warned to stop – you can be charged with stalking, even if you never go near her.

It’s this misunderstanding about stalking laws that can sometimes get people in trouble.
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A Brockton women was recently jailed after an argument with her sister reportedly led to one slashing the other with a kitchen knife.

Our Massachusetts domestic violence defense lawyers can often help a defendant facing charges of assaulting a family member. Scant evidence can lead to an arrest — but whether you are convicted is another matter entirely.

While we typically think of domestic violence situations in terms of spouse-on-spouse, under Massachusetts General Law 209A, it can involve any family member or household member, and it includes violence against someone you may be dating or have dated.

Family or household member means:

1. Anyone to whom you are or were married;
2. Anyone with whom you are living in the same residence;
3. Anyone with whom you are related by blood or marriage;
4. Anyone with whom you have a child, regardless of whether you were ever married or in a long-term relationship with.

In some cases, an arrest will be made on the spot, while in others, officers will take more time to investigate and then return with a warrant to make an arrest. Regardless of the method, the end penalties are equally serious.

In this case, the sister who was slashed reportedly suffered minor injuries. No further details were given about the incident, as it is currently under investigation.

Domestic violence convictions are unique from other assault convictions because there is the potential to greatly disrupt your life, than a simple assault conviction. A conviction for domestic violence can impact not only your personal relationships, but potentially your professional relationships as well.

The alleged victim can also request an abuse protection order against you, which could prohibit you from all contact and even from being in certain places at certain times where it is likely the alleged victim might be. Violation of this order is considered an additional criminal offense.

With regard to your professional life, public employees are at particular are at risk. State employees, for example, are under a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual assault and domestic violence. Executive Order 491, signed back in 2009, establishes that state employees can face disciplinary action from their employer if convicted of a domestic violence offense. This can range from an oral warning or reprimand to a suspension or even termination. This applies regardless of whether the alleged incident happened at work.

What’s more, the executive order allows that the employer can use a prior domestic violence conviction from within the last five years when deciding whether or not to hire a candidate. That’s a strike that many would-be employees can’t afford in this current economic climate.

Although the executive order only involves government employees, many companies have similar policies.

It’s not uncommon for disputes to arise among family members or those living in the same household. When police only have a limited amount of information to go on, they often get it wrong as to who was the aggressor or the exact facts of the case.

Simply pleading guilty to get it over with is not a smart move, and won’t help you put an unpleasant situation behind you any faster.
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Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys have been closely watching the defense strategy in a Florida murder trial, in which a husband is accused of slaying his 33-year-old wife.

In cases requiring a Boston criminal defense, attorneys analyze all angles of a case. Some are glaring situations of self-defense. Others are more nuanced.

In the case of a Florida real estate developer accused of murder, it seems unlikely that he even committed the crime at all.

Here’s what we know about the unfolding case, as it’s been reported by ABC News:

A young mother is found dead on the bathroom floor of her south Florida home. It was November 2007. It was her husband who found her, and subsequently made a frantic phone call to 911.

Prosecutors are contending that the husband killed his wife by strangulation just moments before he made that call.

And it would seem unlikely that a seemingly healthy, 33-year-old woman would die suddenly of a medical condition.

However, the defense has been seemingly effective in creating a shadow of doubt. In their argument, the wife did in fact die of congestive heart failure. The wounds and abrasions found on her body, they said, were likely the result of her falling to the floor in the midst of a heart attack.

Additional wounds, they contended, could be explained by the aggressive treatment that followed shortly after by paramedics and those working to save her life. Chest compressions and other life-saving methods have been known to cause extensive bruising and even broken ribs and other maladies.

What’s more, while the doctor who conducted the autopsy did not render a cause of death (it was still pending at the time of the trial), the chief medical examiner – who was not even present for the autopsy – declared her death a homicide.

And a woman intended to be a key witness for the prosecution – a close friend of the deceased woman – testified instead about how deeply in love the pair were, and how happy her friend was with her husband. That ended up backing claims by defense attorneys that the couple had no major problems that would have supported a motive for murder.

A few months before her death, the woman had reportedly undergone surgery for breast augmentation. At that time, surgeons and anesthesiologists testified that they were unaware that the patient had any heart condition. However, defense attorneys rightly pointed out that sometimes patients lie on medical forms, particularly for cosmetic surgery, because they don’t want anything to stop them from getting the procedure. It’s likely too that the woman didn’t know about a possible heart condition. Just because there was no indication of it during surgery doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

This case is interesting because it illustrates how an experienced defense attorney can attack a prosecution’s theory from nearly every angle. No matter how bleak a case may look on day of arrest, things may look much different in the courtroom. Another great reason why it’s important to exercise your right to remain silent and consult with an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Having an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side as your case moves through the system is critical to obtaining the best possible outcome. What may look bleak at the outset may not be bleak at all. Another great example of why it’s best to exercise your right to remain Continue reading

Abington assault and battery charges have been filed against a 37-year-old police officer who allegedly attacked his 9-year-old twin daughters.

Abington domestic violence defense lawyers know that such an allegation can have implications not only for the officer’s criminal record, but also his job and child custody arrangements.

Domestic battery cases in Massachusetts often stem from very personal matters. It’s not uncommon for one angered spouse to exaggerate or flat-out lie out of spite about what actually happened.

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