These summaries of case decisions are intended for informational purposes only. They are not intended to be interpretations of the law, nor do they encompass the subtleties of each case. Therefore, reference to the original text is indispensable.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Com v. Hunt

Commonwealth v. Roy L. Hunt
79 Mass. App. Ct.
April 26, 2011
Appeals Court

The defendant, who appealed his commitment as a sexually dangerous person, did not participate in voluntary rehabilitative treatment during the course of his incarceration after pleading guilty to the rape of a child. On appeal, he sought to characterize the Commonwealth's use of his lack of treatment to support its claim of ongoing sexual dangerousness as a violation of both the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution. In addition, the defendant claimed that the judge erred in admitting prejudicial evidence and in instructing the jury, and that the prosecutor's closing argument amounted to reversible error. The defendant’s claims were without merit.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Com v. Lawson

Commonwealth v. Antwan Lawson
79 Mass. App. Ct. 322
Appeals Court
April 25, 2011

Criminal, Evidence, Motion to Suppress, Vehicle, Standing, Trespasser

            A jury convicted the defendant of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, the possession with intent to distribute near a school, and the use of a motor vehicle without authority.  The defendant appealed these convictions, arguing that the trial judge erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence taken from a search of his person and the vehicle.  The Appeals Court affirmed the verdict.

Com v. Swanson

Commonwealth v. Daniel Swanson
79 Mass. App. Ct. 902
Appeals Court
April 25, 2011

Probation, Revocation, Excessive Use of Alcohol

            Defendant appealed from a trial judge’s order revoking his probation on the grounds that he violated his probation by not following the “no excessive use of alcohol” clause.  The Appeals Court upheld the revocation of the defendant’s probation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Com v. Cruz

Commonwealth v. Benjamin Cruz
459 Mass. 459 (2011)
Supreme Judicial Court
April 19, 2011

Criminal, Vehicle, Exit Order, Motion to Suppress, Marijuana, Smell of Burnt Marijuana, Probable Cause, Reasonable Suspicion, Exit Order

            The SJC granted the defendant’s direct appellate review to decide an issue of first impression regarding the applicability of G.L. c. 94C, §§ 32L-32N, which decriminalized the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, towards search and seizure jurisprudence.  The SJC held that the odor of burnt marijuana is insufficient for a finding of probable cause or reasonable suspicion by itself to justify an exit order from a vehicle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Com. v. Al Saud

April 4, 2011
Commonwealth v. Bader Al Saud
Docket No. 10760
Supreme Judicial Court

Criminal, Revocation of probation, Due Process of Law, Alien.

The defendant, a Saudi Arabian, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide and was sentenced to one year in the house of correction and by two years' probation. The defendant received probation even though he told the court that he intended to "voluntarily depart" the United States at the end of his incarceration. Normal conditions of probation were imposed, including some with which he could not comply if he left the United States. The court addressed whether conditions of probation apply to a noncitizen defendant in these circumstances.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Com. v. McCollum

Commonwealth v. McCollum
Massachusetts Appeals Court
April 14, 2011
79 Mass. App. Ct. 239

Firearms, Controlled Substances, Confrontation of witnesses, Motion to suppress, Warrant, Affidavit, Certificates of analysis, Search and Seizure, Protective sweep.

The defendant appealed his convictions for possession of cocaine, possession of a firearm, and possession of ammunition without a firearms identification (FID) card.  The Appeals Court reversed the defendant’s conviction for possession of cocaine, finding that the Commonwealth did not present sufficient evidence to show that the defendant constructively possessed the cocaine.  The Appeals Court also reversed the defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm because of the Melendez-Diaz error in admitting the certificate of analysis into evidence.  The Appeals Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for possession of ammunition without an FID card, finding that there was sufficient evidence for the conviction and there was harmless error beyond a reasonable doubt in the admission of the certificate of analysis for the ammunition into evidence.  Lastly, the Court rejected several of the other errors the defendant claimed.

Com v. Escalera

Commonwealth v. Jose M. Escalera
79 Mass. App. Ct. 262
Appeals Court
April 14, 2011

Criminal, Drugs, Firearms, Certificates of Analysis, Sixth Amendment, Confrontation Clause.
The defendant was convicted for various drug and firearm offenses and argued on appeal two separate issues: first, that the admission of certificates of drug and ballistics analyses without live testimony violated his right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment. Second, he claimed that the evidence seized from his residence should have been suppressed, as the police lacked probable cause. The Appeals Court reversed everything but the ammunition conviction because of the erroneous admission of the certificates; however, the Court also determined that there indeed was probable cause to search the residence, so the case was remanded for a new trial on those issues.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Com v. Nesbitt

Commonwealth v. Ralph Nesbitt
459 Mass. 1005
April 13, 2011
Supreme Judicial Court

Criminal, Appeal, Appeal to Single Justice

         The defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and armed burglary and sentenced to life in prison. The convictions were affirmed. Nesbitt thereafter filed several post-conviction motions in the trial court, including motions for a new trial, discovery, and for funds for experts. The motions were denied, and he then applied to a single justice of this court for leave to appeal from that denial pursuant to G.L. c. 278, § 33E. The single justice denied this application. Nesbitt purports to appeal from the single justice's ruling. He has also filed a motion to stay the appeal while he pursues an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in the trial court. The stay was granted on January 28, 2011. The Commonwealth moved to vacate the stay and dismiss the appeal.
        The single justice's decision, acting as a gatekeeper, is final and unreviewable. Commonwealth v. Scott, 437 Mass. 1008 (2002). Nesbitt cannot appeal to the full court (and, accordingly, no stay is warranted). The stay entered on January 28 is vacated and the appeal is dismissed.

So ordered.

 Prepared by JWK

Monday, April 11, 2011

Com. v. Bautista

Commonwealth v. Bautista
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
April 11, 2011
459 Mass. 306

Bail, Surety.

Ernest Solomon appeals an order of bail forfeiture after the United States Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement took the defendant in the case into custody.  The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that Solomon could not prove that an act of the United States government caused the defendant’s default.  Therefore, the exception to the rule regarding the forfeiture of bail because noted in G.L.c. 276 § 70 did not apply.  Furthermore, the Court rejected the defendant’s argument that order of the bail forfeiture was improper because the court ordered the forfeiture instead of the Commonwealth requesting it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Com. v. Hanson

Commonwealth v. Hanson
Massachusetts Appeals Court
April 8, 2011.
79 Mass. App. Ct. 233

Double Jeopardy, Assistance of counsel, Sufficiency of the Evidence

The jury found the defendant guilty of possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, distribution of crack cocaine, and distribution within a school zone.  On appeal, the Commonwealth conceded that it was an error to admit the drug certificates into evidence against the defendant.  The Commonwealth agreed that the Appeals Court should reverse the defendant’s convictions.  However, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence at trial to find him guilty and double jeopardy should bar a retrial of the defendant.  The defendant also argued that his trial counsel was ineffective in that he failed to file a motion to suppress the crack cocaine that the officer found before the defendant’s arrest.  The Appeals Court disagreed with the defendant and found that the Commonwealth could retry the defendant with the evidence presented at trial.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Comm. v. Sanchez

Commonwealth v. Dagoberto Sanchez
79 Mass. App. Ct. 189 (2011)
April 1, 2011
Massachusetts Appeals Court

Criminal, Challenge to jurors, improper peremptory challenges, self-defense, defense of others

A Superior Court jury found the defendant guilty of second-degree murder and the unlawful possession of a firearm.  The defendant argued on appeal that the trial judge erred in allowing the Commonwealth’s peremptory challenges during jury empanelment and that he also failed to give proper instructions on defense of another.  The Appeals Court affirmed the convictions.