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Articles Posted in Important Massachusetts Court Decisions

Can a Case Based on a Photo be Decided Without the Photo? Massachusetts Appellate Court Decides. 

Photographing a nude or partially nude person in an area where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy is a crime in Massachusetts. But what if the alleged photograph is never produced at trial? The Massachusetts Appellate Court recently revisited this issue in Commonwealth v. Cooper

What happened in the Cooper case? 

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decides Admissibility of Cell Site Location Information

Cell site location information (CSLI) is a highly controversial form of evidence used in courts across the country. CSLI allows cell phone companies to give your location information to law enforcement if you are a suspect in a crime. CSLI raises many privacy and seizure issues, including an issue surrounding the right to privacy. Is CSLI too intrusive, or is it a technology that will lower rates of violent crime?

In Commonwealth v. Louis, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court released a holding that may be detrimental to future cyber-privacy rights.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decides Miranda Rights Case, Can a Person Re-Invoke Their Right to Have an Attorney Present?

Many of us know from film and television that we have the right to remain silent after being arrested. This is one part of our Miranda rights. But what happens when we revoke those rights and then attempt to re-invoke them? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court examined this issue in Commonwealth v. Edward Gonzalez.

What happened in the Gonzalez case?

Many cities across the country use unreliable measures to justify racially motivated, unconstitutional, stops and searches disguised as a traffic stop. In Commonwealth v. Bailey-Sweeting, the Supreme Judicial Court has the opportunity to make one of these incidents right.

Despite the Black population of New Bedford making up just 7% of the city’s population, Black people accounted for 46% of those subjected to police field incidents since 2020. New Bedford has cracked down on suspected gang activity in recent years, and the racial disparities appear here as well. Nearly 1 in 10 Black males living in New Bedford are labeled as verified gang members by the city.

What happened in the Bailey-Sweeting case?

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decides Parent-Child Testimony Privilege

In Massachusetts evidence law, there are limits on who may give testimony in various civil and criminal proceedings. One set of limitations is found in a Massachusetts statute that applies to the testimony of a parent or minor child against another in a criminal, delinquency, and youthful offender proceedings where the victim is not a family member and does not reside in the household. But can a parent testify against their own child? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently decided the case of Commonwealth v. Eli Vigiani, which asks the question of whether under Massachusetts law, a parent is disqualified from being called to testify in their child’s defense at an evidentiary hearing for a motion to suppress. 

This case concludes that while Massachusetts law prevents the prosecution from calling in the child’s parents to testify against the child, it does allow for the child to call in their parents as a witness for their defense, and in turn, the state is permitted to cross-examine the parents. 

Massachusetts Court of Appeals Decides a Classroom Death Threat Case 

In the years following the 1999 Columbine shootings, the United States has seen approximately 284 mass shootings in schools across the country. Due to this tragic fact, threats of violence in schools are taken very seriously. 

In a recent decision by the Massachusetts Court of Appeal in Commonwealth v. Leonardo, the court answered the question of whether a juvenile’s threat to kill his teacher was protected as free speech. 

Is it Constitutional to Conduct Evidentiary Hearings Over Zoom?

In John Vasquez Dias v. Commonwealth the question before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was whether a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights are violated by a court choosing to pursue an evidentiary hearing, over the defendant’s objections, over Zoom. Vasquez Diaz was charged with drug trafficking and if convicted, he could face over a decade in prison.

What happened in Vasquez Diaz?

The case of Commonwealth v. Josiah Zachery that is current before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court raises the issue of whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in data from the Charlie Card, which is used to ride the commuter rails in Boston. This issue is likely to reoccur as all cards now track location, from CVS cards, to cards to reflect tolls paid in the highway.  The Massachusetts SJC heard oral argument on November 6, 2020 and a decision should follow within three to four months.

What happened in the Zachery Case?  

In February of 2015, Donte Henley and the defendant were allegedly shoveling snow with the ROCA, a non-profit program for high-risk youth that provides job training. Henley told the defendant to shoot another member of the crew, Lamour, who was a member of a rival gang. The defendant still denies the shooting and contends that there is a lack of forensic evidence against him. The shooter was described as a young, black, male wearing all black with a grey sweater. The defendant matched this description, and he was walking on the side of the road carrying a shovel. The officers determined that he matched the description and decided to check him out. He was searched for weapons, none were found, and they placed him inside the police vehicle. 

The Supreme Judicial Court holds that universities have a duty to protect their intoxicated students

The SJC has recently decided in Helfman v. Northeastern University, that colleges have a special duty of care to their students and must protect them even when they are voluntarily intoxicated.

What happened in Helfman?

First Circuit finds no right to cross-exam witness in sexual misconduct disciplinary hearing.  On any given day, when schools are in session, university students can end up wandering around as they wonder what to do.  Groups of friends and acquaintances meet up at a local hangout and run into strangers who will become friends. Sometimes they consume alcohol, and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they flirt, and sometimes they don’t.

Students who attend Boston College may be vaguely aware of the Student Conduct Handbook. They may know that there are consequences to actions, and there are forums to disprove an accusation. What they may not be aware of is that the Student Conduct Handbook creates a contract between the student and Boston College and that that contract rules disciplinary matters regarding allegations of sexual misconduct.

In November 2018, a female student (Roe) accused a male student (Doe) of sexual misconduct.  Boston College investigated the incident by interviewing both students separately and on multiple occasions as well as interviewing witnesses, finally issuing a 60 plus page report.  As a result of a finding of sexual misconduct, Doe was suspended for one year (2019-2020).

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