In certain instances, a person charged with a Massachusetts criminal offense may wish to appeal a court ruling before his or her case has gone to trial and resulted in a final conviction. Such appeals of intermediate rulings, known as interlocutory appeals, can be useful in preventing a defendant’s rights from being infringed upon before a trial, which could place the defendant at a potentially irreparable disadvantage at trial. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently addressed an interlocutory appeal filed by a Massachusetts man who had been charged with several crimes involving domestic violence.
The defendant who filed the recently decided appeal is a Massachusetts man who was charged with several alleged crimes that occurred over the course of a few months and involved the same victim, who was a domestic partner of the defendant. Prosecutors sought to try the defendant for all of the alleged crimes in a single trial, claiming that the alleged crimes were interconnected enough for them to be tried together. The defendant opposed the prosecution’s motion, asking the court to hear the charges separately.
The trial court granted the prosecution’s motion to join the charges, resulting in the defendant filing an interlocutory appeal with the state supreme court. Arguing that he would be prejudiced by charging the alleged crimes together, the defendant attempted to have the trial judge’s decision to grant the motion reversed. In a summary and unpublished opinion, the high court rejected the defendant’s appeal. Under Massachusetts law, interlocutory appeals in criminal cases are limited to scenarios in which the defendant would be unfairly prejudiced by a court’s failure to consider an error before a final judgment was issued. In this instance, the court decided that the trial court’s decision to grant the prosecution’s motion, if erroneous, could be appealed if and after the defendant is convicted of the alleged crimes, and he will not suffer any prejudice by waiting until after trial to make such an appeal. As a result of the Supreme Court decision, the defendant’s trial will proceed without further interruption.