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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?

Circuit Split Arises Concerning the Legality of Video-Recording Law Enforcement

Civilian recordings of police officers are a relatively new concept. The entire world viewed the cell phone video footage of George Floyd. This video was the focal point of the incident and sparked mass protests around the nation. The prosecution played the video in its entirety at the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. Without this video, Chauvin would have likely faced no consequences for his actions. 

One of the first and most well-known recordings of police brutality was the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. In those days, civilian recordings of police officers were rare, but now, many instances of police brutality and abuse are caught on camera by concerned civilians. 

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. 

Prison Medical Abuse Case Pending Before the United States Supreme Court

The United States unfortunately has one of the highest prison populations in the entire world. With our large prison population, especially in the midst of the COVD-19 pandemic, health issues in prison are very common. But what happens when a detainee awaiting trial has a serious health problem that is ignored by a prison official? What kind of recourse can this person seek. The case Strain v. Regalado is pending before the United States Supreme Court asks the question of how a pretrial detainee can prove a prison official disregarded their health concern.

The legal standard for claims against jail medical staff for pretrial detainees is the subject of a 4-3 circuit split. The Fifth, Eighth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits require pretrial detainees to plead and prove that jail defendants who denied them medical care subjectively knew that their deficient treatment would pose a substantial risk of serious harm. However, the Second, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits do not require pretrial detainees to plead and prove such a high standard. The Tenth Circuit held that pretrial detainees medical care claims are governed by a subjective standard.

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. 

Circuit Split Arises Over Transgender Prisoner Rights

It is well known that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prevents cruel and unusual punishment.  However, what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is a decision that is left to the court’s’ discretion.  There is a deep divide as to whether core issues such as the death penalty meets the standard of cruel and unusual punishment.  If there is a disagreement over these central issues, the hot button issues will inevitably have a profound disagreement.  Currently, there is a circuit split amount the federal courts of appeals as to whether denying a transgender prison sex reassignment surgery constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

The Eighth Amendment has been interpreted in a variety of situations, including the medical needs of prisoners.  In Estelle v. Gamble, the United States Supreme Court held that a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment medical rights are violated if there is deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the usury and wanton infliction of pain.  It has been argued that denying transgender people their healthcare surrounding their gender dysphoria meets this standard.

Massachusetts Appellate Court Decides Text Message Restraining Order Case

A typical restraining order prohibits contact between two people, typically in a domestic violence or stalking situation. But what qualifies as contact? Are text messages from a certain phone number considered “contact” even though there is no way to prove who is behind the phone? The Massachusetts Court of Appeals decided this question in the case of Commonwealth v. Gonsalves.

What happened in the Gonsalves case?

Massachusetts Appellate Court Decides Sex-Crimes Case With No Sexual Offense

Is it possible to be labeled as a sex offender when no sexual assault ever occurred? The Massachusetts Court of Appeals decided this question in the case of John Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board.

What happened in the Doe case?

The Sixth Amendment promises the right to confront an adverse witness. However, when the witness is on the other end of a 911 call, this can lead to tricky constitutional issues. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will soon decide a confrontation clause issue in Commonwealth v. Rand. Hopefully, the SJC will correct an error made by the lower court regarding Rand’s right to confrontation as defendant’s in domestic assault and battery cases have seen their right to confront their accuser diminished by recent Court decisions.

What happened in the Rand case?

This case arises out of a domestic dispute. Defendant Rand and his former girlfriend Otilia Cradock are parents to a young daughter. The couple was on and off, but Rand stayed involved in his daughter’s life, so he was often at Cradock’s home. One night, Cradock and her sister spent the night drinking wine at her apartment. She started to be rude to her sister. Her sister left the apartment. At around 1 in the morning, Cradock reported to police that her boyfriend had assaulted her. She said that he had strangled her until she passed out and urinated. When the 911 operator asked if the boyfriend was still at the home, she responded that he had left.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals held that pretextual inventory searches do not comport with the Fourth Amendment in the case of Commonwealth v. Lek. In the Lek case from Lowell the police detective conceded that he was using traffic infractions in order to detective gang activity.  In other words, traffic stops were being made not to enforce the traffic laws but with the hopes that guns, drugs or other evidence of gang activity would be discovered during the stop.

What happened in the Lek case?  

The Detective and his partner were in plainclothes in an unmarked police car. According to the Detective, he and his partner were looking for motor vehicle violations to address gang suppression through motor vehicle stops. the Detective testified that he was not required to do traffic enforcement that night and was doing it by his own free will.

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