Articles Posted in Assault Crimes/Violence

In a recent case before an appeals court in Massachusetts, the defendant challenged the lower court’s refusal to allow him to keep a jury member from serving on the jury during his trial. On appeal, the higher court reviewed the lower court’s record considered the defendant’s argument, and ultimately sided with the defendant, setting aside his guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged with mayhem, assault and battery, and violation of constitutional rights with bodily injury after he got into a fight with a security guard at a local restaurant. According to witnesses, the defendant attacked the security guard, using racial slurs as he assaulted the man.

The case went to trial, and a jury found the defendant guilty. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court’s judge should not have refused to strike one of the jurors that was part of the pre-trial jury selection.

The Decision

The higher court therefore had to decide whether it was reasonable for the judge overseeing the trial to refuse to strike the juror in question. The juror was a Black male, and the defendant asked to strike the juror, meaning he did not want the man to be part of the group of 12 jurors that would hear the case. The judge asked the reason for the defendant’s request, and counsel for the defendant explained that the juror’s mother worked for the police department and that he might therefore be biased against the defendant.

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The Massachusetts criminal code is designed to allow prosecutors and judges discretion in charging and sentencing decisions in order to address the serious issue of repeat offenders. Criminal defendants with a prior record may be charged with different crimes than another person without a record. Additionally, a defendant’s record is taken into account when a judge makes sentencing decisions. These charging and sentencing decisions can have an enormous impact on the penalties that a defendant may be subjected to for the same conduct. A Massachusetts appellate court recently heard a case that challenged a lower court’s application of the Massachusetts Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) to increase the punishment of a defendant with a prior juvenile offense.

According to the judicial opinion, the defendant had been charged with a firearm charge as a habitual offender because he had a prior conviction for a violent crime. The Massachusetts ACCA defines “violent crime” as an act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or possession of a deadly weapon, punishable by imprisonment for more than one year if committed by an adult. Prior decisions have established that a prior juvenile offense can serve as a predicate offense only if the Commonwealth can prove that the weapon used or possessed was inherently deadly. The defendant’s argument focused on the fact that his youthful offender adjudication involved an armed robbery with a fake handgun. The court agreed with the defendant that the defendant’s prie crime did not apply as a violent crime as required by the ACCA. A competent attorney was crucial in presenting this argument effectively, as the prosecution had to prove the inherent deadliness of the weapon, a nuanced distinction.

This judicial opinion underscores the pivotal role of competent legal counsel when facing cases involving prior offenses. Competent attorneys are vital in cases where the proper interpretation of statutes can mean the difference between enhanced sentencing and a more lenient outcome. They must be well-versed in legal precedent, statutory construction, and the nuanced distinctions between legal terms, such as “dangerous” and “deadly” weapons.

Earlier this month, an appeals court in Massachusetts considered whether a defendant in an assault case should be entitled to a new trial. Originally, the defendant was charged with and convicted of assault and battery on a person over the age of fourteen. Once the defendant appealed, the higher court reconsidered the conviction and decided that the defendant was eligible for a new trial.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant first threatened and then physically harmed the victim in this case in April 2016. The day after the assault occurred, the victim recounted what happened to her friend. Two months later, she decided to report the assault to a detective. The detective investigated the incident, found the defendant, and eventually arrested him on charges of assault and battery.

The case went to trial, and a jury found the defendant guilty as charged. Promptly, the defendant appealed his conviction, asking the higher court to grant him a new trial.

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In a recent case involving assault and battery by a dangerous weapon, the defendant appealed his guilty conviction before the Appeals Court of Massachusetts. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial judge allowed impermissible testimony from police officers to be submitted at trial, and this testimony made the jury unfairly biased against him. Looking at the record of the case, the higher court ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal and affirmed the original conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was arrested with one other individual in an alleyway behind a local gym. Apparently, the defendant pulled out a knife while he and the second individual were threatening a third person. The defendant cut the victim’s face, and the victim sustained minor injuries from the incident. Soon after the assault, a police officer came to the scene to arrest both the defendant and the second individual.

The defendant was charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. His case went to trial, where a jury found him guilty as charged. Promptly after the verdict, the defendant appealed.

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Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts ruled on a defendant’s appeal involving an attempted robbery and homicide. On appeal, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Disagreeing with the defendant, the court affirmed the original conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant and his accomplice got into a taxicab around 1:00am in August 2018. The two passengers took a short ride in the taxi, then when they arrived at their destination, the taxi driver informed them that the ride would cost five dollars. The defendant and his accomplice first asked for change for a fifty-dollar bill, then appeared to shuffle their hands in their pockets as if they were looking for money.

Suddenly, the accomplice reached over the driver’s seat and wrapped both arms around the driver’s neck in a chokehold. The accomplice and the defendant both told the driver to hand over his money. At the same time, the defendant pulled out a three-inch tactical-style knife and pressed the blade against the driver’s body. The defendant and his accomplice exchanged words with each other such as, “just stab him” and “kill him.”

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In a recent opinion from a Massachusetts court, the defendant’s appeal of his convictions connected to an armed assault and carjacking was denied. The defendant argued in his appeal that the procedures that officers used to identify him as the person who committed the assault and carjacking were unnecessarily suggestive. Because these procedures were unfair, said the defendant, his convictions should be reversed. The court disagreed, denying the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two women arrived at a residence in Massachusetts to inquire about a potential cleaning job. The women arrived in separate cars, and when they got to the residence, one woman got out of her car and went to speak with the other woman in her car. At that time, a man came up behind one of the women and pointed a small black gun at her. The man began to tell the women to “get out.” The woman in the car exited her vehicle, and the man immediately got into her car and drove away.

One of the women immediately called 911 and reported the incident. An officer arrived, and the women gave the officer a physical description of the man who had taken the car. A report was broadcast over the police radio that included a description of the suspect, the license plate number of the woman’s vehicle, and the suspect’s direction of flight. Another officer in the area heard the broadcast and saw a car matching the description of the stolen car. Following the car, the officer saw the driver run a red line and crash into a telephone pole. The officer apprehended the driver and arrested him.

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In a recent opinion coming out of a Massachusetts court, the defendant contested the fact that his hearing had been held over Zoom instead of in person. Appealing his guilty verdict, the defendant said his constitutional rights were violated because he was limited to a remote setting. Given the procedures that courts are currently taking because of COVID-19, the court rejected the defendant’s appeal.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged with assault and battery on a family member as well as strangulation. He was being held in prison in March 2020; at the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the nation. During this time, Massachusetts courts limited in-person court proceedings to emergency matters only. Nonemergency matters were moved to virtual hearings, and defendants appeared at their hearings via Zoom.

In this case, the defendant received a bench trial conducted partially in person and partially online. All participants appeared in person except for the defendant and one of the Commonwealth’s witnesses (a neighbor of the defendant), both of whom participated in the hearing over Zoom. At the end of the hearing, the judge found the defendant guilty of simple assault and battery. The defendant was sentenced to time in prison.

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Homicide trials, especially those that appear to be gang-related, can garner a large amount of publicity. This exposure can place a lot of pressure on prosecutors to “win” a conviction and look good in the public eye. Although trials are not meant to be a spectacle purposed to make prosecutors look effective and tough on crime, this is the reality of the criminal justice system in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently heard an appeal by two defendants that challenged their convictions for gang-related second-degree murder.

The defendants in the recently decided case were charged with conspiring to shoot and kill a coworker. The victim was a member of a known gang, and the defendants were alleged to be members of a rival gang. Before the shooting, the defendants communicated by text message that the victim would be in a certain place at a certain time, and the defendants allegedly planned to meet each other at that place and intimidate or assault the victim. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, a man later identified as one of the defendants traveled by train to the area the victim was working, shot him in the head and fled the scene. After a chase, the shooter was apprehended and later arrested and charged with murder. The second defendant was later arrested and charged based on the text message communications between him and the other defendant, allegedly planning the murder.

Both defendants were charged with first-degree murder for the crime.

The Supreme Judicial Court recently reversed a defendant’s Massachusetts assault and battery conviction, finding that the trial court made a prejudicial error in excluding the defendant’s expert witness. After an altercation with two men, the court indicted the appellant on two counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. The defendant argued that he acted in self-defense after one of the men attacked him based on racial animus. To substantiate his claim, the defendant proposed two expert witnesses that could testify that the man had a tattoo of a symbol affiliated with a white supremacist group. The judge excluded the witnesses, and the defendant was convicted.

On appeal, the court considered whether the trial judge incorrectly excluded the defendant’s experts. At trial, the defendant attempted to introduce two experts: one with a doctorate in cultural anthropology who studies the nationalist movement, and another with a doctorate in educational leadership and is an expert on gangs. The defendant argued that the judge’s finding that the experts were not reliable was an abuse of discretion.

Under Massachusetts law, expert testimony works to aid jurors in interpreting evidence that is outside common knowledge. The Daubert-Lanigan standard generally governs the admission of expert testimony. The testimony must stem from a “reliable foundation” and be “relevant to the task at hand” to meet this standard. Evidence is relevant if it tends to make a fact more or less probable.

Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated a lower court’s order permitting a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. The Massachusetts criminal case arose when police arrested the defendant in connection with a fatal shooting. According to the court’s opinion, officers confiscated the defendant’s cell phone and then obtained a search warrant to search it for evidence. Before trial, the judge granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the cell phone evidence. The judge reasoned that the police obtained the warrant without establishing a sufficient nexus between the murder and the defendant’s cell phone. She did not address whether the search was “sufficiently particular,” but she noted that the search was not “limited in time.” The Commonwealth appealed and the court reviewed whether there was probable cause and if the search exceeded the scope of the warrant.

The Fourth Amendment and Massachusetts Declaration of Rights require that a magistrate determine whether probable cause exists before issuing a search warrant. There must be a “substantial basis” that lead a fact finder to determine that the items sought are related to the criminal activity under investigation, and in the place to be searched when the warrant is issued. Essentially, along with probable cause, the government must establish a “nexus” between the item sought and the alleged crime. Probable cause inquiries are fact-based, and courts resolve them on a case-by-case basis.

In this case, an eyewitness described seeing a male standing over the victim then fleeing the scene in a light-colored vehicle with an out-of-state license plate. Another witness saw a light-colored sedan driving quickly down a street. He then saw the car’s occupants moving around in the car, as if they were changing their clothes. When police arrived, they found the three men, including the defendant, sitting in the car. After realizing that one of the men matched the shooter’s description, police removed all three men from the car. At the time, the defendant was talking on his cell phone. Officers discovered a firearm that had recently been fired. Moreover, the victim’s cell phone contained a violent conversation between the victim and a contact believed to be one of the occupants. After that, the detective received a warrant to search the defendant’s cell phone. The warrant did not have any date restrictions.

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