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Massachusetts Criminal Defendant Unsuccessfully Argues for a Reversal Based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Recently, a court of appeals in Massachusetts had to decide whether it agreed with a criminal defendant’s argument that he had been deprived of effective assistance of counsel during his trial. Originally, the defendant was charged with assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen. A trial court found him guilty, and he promptly appealed the verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, investigators in this case became suspicious that the defendant had been improperly communicating with and potentially abusing minors. The victim had written in her diary about incidents of sexual abuse from her dad, who later became the defendant in this case. To figure out if the allegations against the defendant were accurate, investigators retrieved a search warrant from the court and went to look in the defendant’s apartment. While looking around, the investigators found a cell phone with several photos of the child in the nude.

The defendant was charged with several crimes, including assault and battery of a child, posing a child in the nude, and attempting to pose a child in the nude. He was later convicted at trial.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that his criminal defense attorney provided him with insufficient representation before the lower court. The attorney should have objected to the Commonwealth’s use of pictures from the defendant’s phone as evidence against him. These photos were improperly retrieved, argued the defendant. Even though the investigators had a warrant to search his apartment, they did not have a warrant to search through his electronic devices. Because he believed a search through his photos required a second warrant, the evidence was improperly admitted during his trial.

To succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a criminal defendant must prove that his attorney failed him in a major way, as well as that this failure deprived the defendant of an otherwise available opportunity to fight his claim. Here, said the court, the defendant’s attorney did not fail him by neglecting to ask the court to suppress the incriminating evidence.

According to the court, the investigators’ warrant was sufficient even though it only provided for a search of the defendant’s apartment. Nothing in the case law, said the court, requires that there be two separate search warrants – one to seize a phone and another to search it. Because the investigators had the proper warrant to search the defendant’s home, anything else they found would be admissible in court.

Thus, the defendant’s attorney did not rise to the level of incompetence necessary for the defendant to succeed on his appeal. The defendant’s guilty verdict was thus affirmed.

Have You Been Charged with a Sex Crime in Massachusetts?

Facing criminal charges for a sex crime in Massachusetts can be daunting, and when your freedom is on the line, you want an attorney you can trust. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, we look for every possible claim or defense that might be available to you, so that you can rest assured no stone is left unturned. To retain an attorney that will fight for you and your rights, call us today. Our phone number is 617-367-0450, and we are available 24/7.

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