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The Fourth Amendment precludes police officers from entering a home without a warrant; one of the exceptions to this requirement is when consent to search is given.  The Massachusetts Appeals Court addressed the issue of who can consent to a search in the case of Commonwealth v. Richard Santos decided in June of 2020.


In Santos, the defendant lived in one apartment with her daughter living in the apartment next door.  The mother told the police that she owned both apartments.  The mom told the police that she sometimes lets her son stay in her daughter’s apartment.  the police asked the mother to consent to a search of her daughter’s apartment.  The mother granted permission.  The Appeals Court addressed the issue of whether the mother had apparent authority to consent to the search of her daughter’s apartment.

In February, the United States Supreme Court was asked to consider whether a misdemeanor child endangerment conviction may be grounds for removal of a lawful resident immigrant under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Court recently denied certiorari, allowing the petitioner’s removal to proceed. This decision effectively endorses an expansive interpretation of the scope of offenses against children that can result in deportation.

Gerard Matthews has held lawful permanent resident status in the United States since 1989. Almost twenty years ago, the State of New York charged Matthews with child endangerment for committing sexual acts in front of a minor on two occasions. Matthews pled guilty to both counts. Consequently, in 2011, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(i), which provides that “[a]ny alien who at any time after admission is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, a crime of stalking, or a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment is deportable.” The INA does not define the crimes of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, although it does define domestic violence. Under New York’s child-endangerment statute, a person commits child endangerments when “[h]e or she knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child….”

An immigration judge concluded that Matthews was removable and that his criminal history made him undeserving of discretionary relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. Matthews v. Barr, 927 F.3d 606 (2nd Cir. 2019). In particular, the Second Circuit deferred to an earlier interpretation by the BIA holding that the INA provision encompasses incidents of child endangerment where there is a sufficiently high risk of harm to the child. This definition includes mental and emotional harm as well as sexual exploitation. Moreover, the court held that Matthews failed to present evidence that New York convicts defendants of child endangerment for offenses that are insufficiently serious to fall within the BIA’s definition of child abuse. Under these circumstances, the court concluded that the New York statute was a “categorical match” with the BIA’s definition and relief was not warranted.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Thomas Gerhardt raising the issue of whether field sobriety tests should be admissible for an OUI marijuana arrest.

While it is difficulty to predict how judges will decide from questions, here are my thoughts.

The Justice stated that it would be improper with an objection for an officer to testify that a defendant passed or failed field sobriety tests in an OUI alcohol or marijuana case.  It appeared as though the Justice seemed to think that because an officer can testify that someone stumbled getting out of the car, that it is not significantly different to say that the individual could not follow instructions on a field sobriety test.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will review a decision from Judge DeAngelo out of the Worcester District Court holding that field sobriety tests are unreliable when attempting to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. The case was argued once before at the SJC as Judge DeAngelo initially reported the question to the court without making a decision. The SJC remanded it to him for an evidentiary hearing. After that hearing he made the following finding in an extremely well reasoned opinion.  As a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer, I expect the SJC will affirm Judge DeAngelo’s decision and hope that this case will be followed nationally by other courts addressing this issue.

Judge DeAngelo questions that the SJC requested that he answered; here is a summary of his findings.

First, he found that there is a correlation between marijuana use and impaired driving.  Despite this correlation, he found that there was no credible evidence as to what physical characteristics permit an inference that an individual is impaired while driving.  He found 4 physical characteristics common to positive marijuana use.

There was no verdict in the Justin Ross Harris hot car death trial.  Lawyers delivered closing arguments in the Justin Ross trial.  The defense argued that it was an accident that Justin Ross left his infant son Cooper in a hot car that caused his death.  Ross’ lawyer Maddox Kilgore presented a skillful closing argument where he contends that Ross had no motive to kills his son.  The State claimed that he wanted to escape from his child to have more time to be with other women as there was extensive evidence of him sex texting other women and having affairs.  The defense claimed that Ross was living the life he wanted, there was no need to kill his son who the defense said the evidence showed he loved.  At the time of his son death, Ross the defense claims was planning a family cruise and was looking for a house in a good school district.  Ross’ ex-wife who despised him for cheating said that he loved Cooper.

Ross left his son in the car according to the defense when he got out of his normal routine of dropping his son off at daycare prior to going to Chick Fillet and then to work.  The defense presented an expert about false memory.  The defense expert explained to the jury that it is very easy to believe you did something when you habitually do it and people can easily get distracted.

The defense further argued that the State incorrectly presented how the car seat looked and that he was not in the line of sight of Ross.  A key point for the defense was that Ross parked in the middle of the parking lot, rather than in a wooded or more secluded area of the lot where Cooper was less likely to be seen.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that the police had no reasonable suspicion to stop a black male walking on the streets in Roxbury believed to be a suspect in a breaking and entering. As result of the seizure, the police found a hand gun; the Court ordered it suppressed as there was no basis for the detention of the defendant.

The SJC overruled the decision of the motion judge who would found no Constitutional violation under the 4th Amendment or Article 14. The Court decision held:

  • Flight provides little or no weigh in an analysis of reasonable suspicion unless the person is committing a crime, as the police could induce flight and thereby create a suspicion where none exits.

The Connecticut State Supreme Court has upheld the abolishment of the death penalty, including for death-row inmates in the re-examination of the case of State v. Santiago.  Last August, the Court held that the death penalty was unconstitutional following the legislature’s abolition of capital punishment three years ago. The legislature made the law to apply only to new cases and kept in place the death sentences that were already imposed on those facing execution. This law left 11 men on death row to await execution. Attorneys for the inmates on death row challenged the law, saying that it violated the inmates’ constitutional rights. The justices in the majority wrote that executing an inmate “would violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment” and that the death penalty “no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency.” The majority essentially said that it would be unfair to execute the remaining death row inmates when lawmakers had determined that the death penalty was no longer needed for future convicts. Inmates on death row will now be resentenced to life without parole.

The constitution of Connecticut prohibits cruel and unusual punishments under, as held in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. The death penalty is categorically excessive and disproportionate when imposed on certain classes of offenders. Further, the death penalty is subject to random and arbitrary imposition due to biases and discrimination. The defendant’s life is left in the hand’s of the jury that has virtually unquestionable discretion whether to sentence him to death if convicted.

The United States is the only Western Country still applying the death penalty. There are currently still 30 states that uphold the death penalty as a sentencing option, as well as the federal government. Of these states, seven have put executions on hiatus without an official end to the death penalty. However, more and more restrictions are being put in place as time goes by. The death penalty may only be used if the defendant is convicted of or pleads guilty to a capital offense. The death penalty has been ruled to be unconstitutional for minors and those with intellectual disabilities.

The Supreme Court is reconsidering a death row conviction from 30 years ago after the prosecution’s notes from the jury selection process were found to contain multiple indicators of racial bias. Despite the evidence showing illegal racial discrimination, the State of Georgia is disputing the case, alluding to the brutality of the murder and suggesting that the racial references were done to “prepare” the prosecution for future cases where racial bias may occur. 

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The Rape Trial of Owen Labrie began this week with opening statements and testimony of the complaining witness in the case.

In this Blog, I will review what I see as the strength of the Defense case and why I would expect the jury to find Owen not guilty on the Rape Charge.

The case revealed a disturbing culture at St. Paul Boarding, a New Hampshire prep school, which students referred to as a senior salute. The defense tried to downplay this culture, which ultimately is when older students attempt to ‘hook up’ with one freshman student before graduation, but it is clear that the school prompted a culture degrading to its younger female students.

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The Kansas Supreme Court recently issued a decision dismissing one of the most controversial pieces of evidence used in an OUI trial – the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN). Finding no evidence to support the reliability of HGN test results, the high court forbade trial judges from admitting HGN test results for ANY purpose at all, until expert scientific evidence is presented to establish the test’s reliability in measuring intoxication levels.

The Kansas court issued this important ruling in the recent case of City of Wichita v. Molitor. In Molitor, the defendant was pulled over for failing to signal a right turn at a stop sign. Though the defendant correctly stopped at the sign, and properly completed the turn, he did so without signaling. And though the defendant passed two of three sobriety tests, the officer still required him to take a breath test, which registered a BAC level of .09 percent. The defendant was then arrested for an OUI.

After the officer stopped the defendant, the officer approached the vehicle and detected an odor of alcohol. The officer also noticed that the defendant had watery and bloodshot eyes, and so asked the defendant if he had consumed alcohol earlier that evening. The defendant replied that he had a couple beers, and the officer ordered him to exit the vehicle for field sobriety testing.

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