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Articles Posted in Important SJC Decisions

The Massachusetts SJC heard oral arguments on November 6, 2023 regarding two OUI Serious Injury cases involving accident and blood tests.  The issue before the Court is whether the requirement that the State police obtain consent to test blood applies to both a simple OUI and a more serious OUI involving serious injury or death.

In the case of Commonwealth v. Zucchino, the defendant was indicted and had a case in Salem Superior Court involving OUI-manslaughter, OUI serious bodily injury and leaving the scene of death among other charges.  Following the accident, the defendant was taken to the hospital where his blood was drawn.  After the blood draw, the State police applied for a warrant for the blood and tested the blood at the State police laboratory.  There are two possible blood draws in this case. First was the blood draw by the hospital and second the testing of the blood by the State police.

It was the testing by the State police without the defendant’s consent that was the subject of the motion and SJC argument.  A similar case also argued on the same day before the SJC was Commonwealth v. Cappellucci.  This case was heard in the Framingham District Court and alleged OUI serious bodily injury.  The defendant was also charged with OUI-drugs serious bodily injury.  In the

The Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is set to decide in the coming weeks on a very controversial and important criminal case.  Commonwealth v. Cuffee is set to clarify some pending arguments regarding the state of Equal Protection rights in Massachusetts.  Should a defendant have to prove racial profiling before he is allowed to request the statistical data to support his claim, or should the facts of the case allow him to make a reasonable inference to request the data?  Does it matter if the profiling occurred during a traffic stop or a pedestrian stop?  What if the defendant does not argue an unlawful search or seizure, does it matter if the officer was motivated by race?  These are some of the questions the Supreme Judicial Court is tasked with answering.  You can watch a video of the oral argument here.

The defendant in this case, Mr. Kieson Cuffee, an African-American male, was arrested in 2019 and subsequently convicted after police received a ShotSpotter report.   The ShotSpotter reported an alleged incident of gunfire near a local intersection.   Kieson was running down the street, a few blocks away, in a fairly busy part of Springfield, then stopped and entered a local bodega.  When detectives entered the area to investigate the initial report, they noticed Kieson running, possibly with something on his right side, and subsequently, stop and enter the bodega.  At the time, the detectives had no indication that actual gunfire had occurred and had no description of any alleged suspects.  Based on observing Kieson, they swung their unmarked car around, parked, and entered the store.  There they cornered Kieson, violently attempted to detain him, and injured Kieson, all in under 30 seconds.  Frightened and bleeding profusely, Kieson ran and was chased down and arrested shortly after.  He was convicted and has appealed his case.

After his arrest, Kieson’s attorneys, utilizing the recent rulings in Commonwealth v. Long and Commonwealth v. Lora, argued against the stop and requested records on the arresting detectives.  Specifically, based on the facts surrounding the arrest, the history of the arresting department, and other factors required in Long to show a reasonable claim of selective enforcement of the law, they requested documents relating to the arresting detectives such as their police reports and field interview reports for a year leading up to the arrest of Kieson.  Based on Long, where the Supreme Judicial Court set out its desire to lower the burden on defendants to make a reasonable claim.  It seems to be a logical extension of the Long decision that the SJC would allow discovery to prove racial bias that violates the Equal Protection Clause.

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.

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.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Hear Police Surveillance Case 

Under the Fourth Amendment and the United States Supreme Court precedent, there is a reasonable expectation of privacy from government intrusion that all Americans enjoy. The home is one of the most sacred places when it comes to privacy. It is a place that is only subject to government intrusion with a warrant. However, what if the government intrudes into the home not physically, but by camera? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments next week in the case of Commonwealth v. Comenzo.  This case was argued on October 6, 2021.  

What happened in the case

The Fourth Amendment is one of the most important constitutional rights we have. The Fourth Amendment was added to the constitution out of the Founder’s frustration with so called “general searches” in colonial times. The authorities were allowed to search for anything at any time and the colonists were very frustrated. In the modern time, the Fourth Amendment has been nearly swallowed whole by the endless amount of exceptions. Yet another Fourth Amendment case in pending before the United States Supreme Court in the case of Knights v. United States.

What is at issue in the Knights case?  

The Supreme Court has previously held that if a person is seized under the Fourth Amendment if in view of all the circumstances surrounding that incident, a reasonable person would have believed he was not free to leave. What constitutes a restraint on liberty prompting a person to conclude that he is not free to leave will vary, not only with the particular police conduct at issue but also with the setting in which the conduct occurs.

Does a Zoom Trial Violate A Defendant’s Rights? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Decide. 

Criminal defendants in this country have a right to trial in front of a jury of their peers. Additionally, the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article Twelve of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights guarantees a defendant’s right to confront a witness at trial. 

However, it has been nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic, and life is just now beginning to return to normal. COVID has thrown a wrench in nearly every facet of life, including criminal trials. The case of Commonwealth v. Curran will decide whether Zoom proceedings interfere with a defendant’s rights. 

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decides Body Camera Case 

In the aftermath of the 2014 Michael Brown shooting by a law enforcement offer, police departments all across the country began to require officers to wear body cameras while on duty. Body cameras were meant to protect citizens from police misconduct. But, what if body camera footage is used against you in court? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided today Commonwealth v. Yusuf the question of whether body camera footage capturing the inside of someone’s home requires a warrant. 

What happened in the Yusuf case?

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decides Juror Discrimination Case 

During jury selection, attorneys are allowed to object to a proposed juror without giving a reason for the objection. This is called a peremptory challenge. However, attorneys throughout history have used peremptory challenges to strike jurors based on racial stereotypes. In the 1986 case of Batson v. Kentucky, the United States Supreme Court held that a prosecutor cannot use peremptory challenges to exclude jurors solely on the basis of race. 

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held Commonwealth v. Carter that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial judge not to require the prosecution to provide a race-neutral reason for its challenge of at least one Black juror. 

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.

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