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Massachusetts Court Allows Introduction of Photos from Digital Camera Found in Defendant’s Apartment

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts homicide case, discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress images taken from a digital camera found in the defendant’s apartment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the admission of the photos was not improper, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant and the victim were involved in an on-and-off romantic relationship that was, on some level, characterized by domestic violence. In fact, the defendant had pending domestic violence charges when he was arrested for her murder.

Evidently, the defendant was out at a bar when he told another bar patron that his girlfriend was dead in his apartment. The next day, the patron called the police, who spoke with the defendant. The defendant admitted he killed his girlfriend. Police officers obtained a warrant to search his apartment, where they found a digital camera. On the camera were graphic photographs of the victim with the defendant’s hands around her neck. Police then obtained a second search warrant to search the contents of the camera. While officers had already searched through the camera and reviewed the photos, this fact was left out of the warrant application.

The defendant sought exclusion of the camera, as well as the photos, arguing that the warrant allowing officers to search his apartment “lacked sufficient information to show that the camera or its contents were related to the homicide under investigation.” The trial court disagreed, the jury was shown the photos, and ultimately convicted the defendant. The defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant again argued that the photographs should not have been admitted due to deficiencies in the warrants. The court disagreed. First, the court addressed the argument that the camera itself was not covered by the first warrant. The court explained that the fact that the defendant admitted to killing the victim inside his apartment the day before gave police a reasonable basis to believe the camera may contain relevant evidence of the crime.

The court then went on to discuss the defendant’s argument that the photographs should have been suppressed because the officers turned on the camera and reviewed the pictures without an additional warrant. Here, the court dodged the question of whether the officers were justified in searching the camera, and instead held that the contents of the camera were “inevitable discovery.” The court explained that, even if the officers should not have turned on and reviewed the contents of the phone, they would eventually have been able to do so. Thus, the court rejected both of the defendant’s appellate issues, affirming his conviction.

Are You Facing Serious Allegations?

If you were recently arrested and charged with a Massachusetts violent crime, such as a homicide offense or domestic violence crime, reach out to Attorney Patrick J. Murphy to discuss your case. Attorney Murphy is a veteran Boston criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of serious Massachusetts criminal cases. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you defend your freedom against the charges you are facing, call 617-367-0450 today.

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