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Articles Posted in Important SJC Decisions

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.

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?

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