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pinsAt a Massachusetts juvenile crime trial, a teenager was adjudicated delinquent for assault and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon at school. He claimed on appeal that there wasn’t enough evidence for the judge to adjudicate delinquency on the dangerous weapon charge, among other things.

The teenager was in high school. A teacher saw he’d taped pins to his fingers, and some were on his backpack. They were safety pins without hooks and with jagged edges. When the teacher asked what was on his fingers, he answered he was Edward Scissorhands. He gave her the pins at her request.

Under MGL c. 269 section 10(j), you can be convicted for carrying a firearm or other dangerous weapon on your person in school. The teenager argued that there wasn’t enough evidence that the pins should be considered a dangerous weapon. The law includes as dangerous weapons objects that are made and designed to cause great bodily injury or death or to assault or defend. In this case, there was no argument that the pins on the boy’s fingers were dangerous per se. To sustain the adjudication of delinquency, there had to be a finding that the pins were dangerous as he used them.

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handcuffsUnder Instruction § 6.700 of the Criminal Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court, the Commonwealth needs to establish the following to show a criminal threat:  (1) the defendant stated an intention to harm someone or someone’s property presently or in the future, (2) the defendant intended this threat to be conveyed to a specific person, (3) the injury that was threatened would be a crime if actually committed, and (4) the defendant made this threat in a situation that could have reasonably caused the hearer to fear the defendant had both the intent and the ability to go through with the threat.

In a recent Massachusetts criminal threatening case, a man was charged with one count of threatening to perpetrate a crime under M.G.L. c. 275. section 2. The case arose when the defendant was arrested for not paying child support. He was taken out of the courtroom and moved to a lock-up area. While intake was taking place, he got angry and said that if this ruined his life, he would come back there with a machine gun. The intake was completed, and a different officer walked him to his cell. While being taken, he said that if this ruined his life, he would come back with a vengeance.

He was put in a cell and later moved to a house of correction. He moved to dismiss the complaint that he’d made a threat. This motion was granted. The Commonwealth appealed.

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shadowsIn a recent Massachusetts assault case, the defendant was convicted of resisting arrest and assault and battery on a cop. The problems arose when two policemen were dispatched to his house for a 911 hang-up call. When the policemen got there, one thought he heard somebody talking. Through a window, the policeman saw the defendant’s co-defendant and heard a woman ask angrily why he hit her. The co-defendant moved to the back of the house, and the officer went in that direction. He heard a woman crying and a man yelling, trying to get her to be quiet.

The officer came back to the front of the house, where he found the other officer inside, talking to a woman who lived at the house. The co-defendant was clearly drunk and agitated and came up to the officers from the back of the house. He kept yelling at them and insisted they needed a warrant to be in the home.

The officers told him they’d gotten a 911 call and had to check on everyone. The co-defendant and defendant began yelling and stopped the officers from checking on the woman in the back of the house. The defendant told them they couldn’t go back. The officer smelled alcohol on both his breath and his co-defendant’s breath. The co-defendant grabbed one of the officers, and both he and the defendant pushed the cops. The defendant put his hands on one of the officers, who called to get backup. The officers told the defendant and co-defendant they were under arrest, but they didn’t follow orders.

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eyeIn a recent Massachusetts appellate decision, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon on a pregnant person, as well as ordinary assault and battery on a pregnant woman and a violation of an abuse prevention order. He argued on appeal that the prosecutor’s misstatements warranted granting a new trial.

This Massachusetts assault case arose when the defendant began dating the victim, who was pregnant by about three or four months. They argued while staying at a friend’s. The victim tried to stop the conversation, and in response, the defendant punched her face. He stole her handbag, including the money and a cell phone chip that were in it.

Later, while they were staying at a hotel with another couple, the defendant left. When he got back, he found her showering and accused her of being unfaithful. He tried to argue with her and closed the bathroom door. The victim asked him to open the door. He opened it and punched her in the face, and he pinned her to the wall. Later, he let her leave the bathroom. Security was called, and they came and took him out of the room.

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prisonIn a recent Massachusetts assault case, the appellate court considered aggravated rape and armed assault with intent to murder. DNA evidence connected the defendant to the case.

In 2010, an arrest warrant was issued for the defendant. He was indicted as a youthful offender. However, he filed a motion to dismiss the indictments for a failure to hold a probable cause hearing. A judge dismissed the case, and the Commonwealth appealed. The appeal was dismissed. However, a delinquency complaint was sought in Juvenile Court. The defendant was arraigned for aggravated rape and armed assault with intent to murder. When probable cause was determined, the case was transferred to the adult court system.

The defendant was indicted for aggravated rape and armed assault with intent to murder. His new attorney was appointed. At the trial, the jury couldn’t come to a decision about aggravated rape, and a mistrial was declared. However, the defendant was acquitted of the charge for armed assault with intent to murder. He was tried again and convicted.

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ATMA recent Massachusetts robbery case arose when the defendant was convicted of armed burglary, masked armed robbery, and armed assault in a dwelling. The events giving rise to the case occurred one night when the victims, a couple, woke up to find that there were three masked men standing by their bed, screaming and pointing a gun toward them. A man with a crowbar asked where the money and drugs were. The victims showed the three men their valuables, which included $2,000 in cash, a guitar, and a gaming system. The female victim told the men where her debit card was and gave the man with the crowbar her PIN.

At trial, the defendants argued the evidence was not enough to prove their identity beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth didn’t have direct eyewitness identification testimony, but it submitted evidence about what the robber with the crowbar was wearing, including a sweatshirt with a Champion logo, and that the skin of his that did show was dark. The surveillance video showed a man with dark skin and a sweatshirt with a Champion logo using the victim’s debit card and PIN to withdraw cash from an ATM near the victim’s house after the robbery. The sweatshirt the defendant wanted to bring after his arrest was also a black Champion sweatshirt.

The female victim found a photograph of a dark-skinned masked man on the defendant’s Facebook page and said that the mask and skin color were almost identical to the robber carrying a crowbar. The defendant was related to the male victim and was familiar with the home.

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car theftIn a recent Massachusetts theft case, the defendant was convicted of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed robbery while masked. The case arose when the victim of the robbery came to his brother’s convenience store where he worked. He was carrying a bag with $35,000 in cash that was needed to pay lottery winners and address other store business. He believed a customer was coming in behind him, but it turned out to be a robber wearing black clothes, a mask, and gloves. The robber demanded the bag.

The victim tried to avoid giving it to the robber by throwing it on the store counter. The robber hit him with a crowbar, grabbed the bag, and ran away. The victim called 911. The police came to the scene and looked at the surveillance video recording. They called the detective unit and canine unit to track the robber. A trooper came with a canine that tracked the scene for a mile. The dog stopped at the door of a building. The trooper believed this meant that there was something behind the building door. He and other police officers arrested the defendant in a basement apartment at the building.

Another detective reported to the scene and was given a description of the suspect as being light-skinned and black-haired and wearing a heavy brown jacket with a hoodie and a woolen cap. The detective rode around searching for the suspect. Another detective told him to go to the street where the building was. The defendant was on the street walking his dog, and he went into the address where the canine had signaled. The police entered and found multiple people, including the defendant. The defendant was the only person who matched the description.

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prison cellIn a recent Massachusetts assault case, the defendant pled guilty to assault and battery on a girlfriend and her child. A judge sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in the house of correction, but he only had to serve six months with the balance suspended for three years. He was sentenced to three years of probation on the second charge.

He moved to revise and revoke the sentence. He asked if he could serve the sentence on weekends. The sentence was stayed until 2015, and on that date, the judge allowed the motion. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing the judge had made a mistake in granting the defendant’s motion. It argued the defendant didn’t meet the criteria provided under M.G.L. c. 279 section 6A that would allow him to serve a special weekend sentence.

After the appeal was entered, the judge held a hearing on the sheriff department’s petition to modify after the appeal was entered. The sheriff argued that the defendant should not be eligible due to his priors, having been imprisoned on prior convictions. The judge reduced the committed part of the defendant’s sentence to time served.

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roachIn a recent Massachusetts case, the court considered whether field sobriety tests were admissible in situations in which the police believe a driver may have been driving under the influence of marijuana.

The case arose in 2013, when the police watched a blue motor vehicle traveling south on Route 146 without its rear lights on. The police followed the car and activated their lights. The officer approached on the passenger side. There were three people inside:  the driver and two passengers. Smoke was in the car, and the officer smelled burnt marijuana when the window was rolled down. The officer also saw cigar tobacco on the floor and a cigar slicer on the key ring of the key that was in the ignition. The officer asked the driver for his license and registration.

The driver gave the officer his license but said he didn’t have his registration. The officer asked him how much pot he had in the car, and the driver answered there were roaches in the ashtray. Two mostly consumed rolled cigarettes were taken out of the ashtray and provided to the officer, who asked when they smoked pot. A passenger replied they’d smoked 20 minutes earlier, but the driver answered it had been three hours earlier.

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stairsIn a recent Massachusetts aggravated assault case, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery by a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and threatening. The case arose from the defendant allegedly kicking the victim multiple times with a closed-toe shoe while the victim was trying to go down a flight of stairs to get away from her. The kicks were such that the victim needed help from her boyfriend to avoid falling down.

Among other things, the defendant claimed that “dangerous weapon” as described in M.G. L. c. 265, § 15A(b) was unconstitutionally vague. A law is considered unconstitutionally vague if people with ordinary intelligence have to guess at what it means. When a law has been clarified by a court’s explanation, it withstands such a challenge. “Dangerous weapon” has a meaning that’s regularly applied, and dangerous weapons include objects designed and constructed to cause death or catastrophic injuries, as well as objects that aren’t dangerous per se but become dangerous based on how they’re used. Whether a weapon is dangerous within the law’s meaning is a question for the jury or fact-finding judge.

The appellate court reasoned that someone of usual intelligence would realize that using closed-toed shoes to kick someone multiple times as they went down the stairs was prohibited by the statute. It found no error on this point.

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