Supreme Judicial Court
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that the call history on a simple flip phone is no different than any other evidence police might find on a person under arrest and that they can look at it without first obtaining a search warrant.
The state's highest court, however, said it was withholding judgment on the matter of more complex smartphones.
As other courts have noted ... today's cellular telephones are essentially computers, capable of storing enormous quantities of information, personal, private, and otherwise, in many different forms. They present novel and important questions about the relationship between the modern doctrine of search incident to arrest and individual privacy rights. Although an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy is diminished concerning his or her physical person when subject to a lawful arrest and taken into custody, the same may not necessarily be true with respect to the privacy of the myriad types of information stored in a cellular telephone that he or she is carrying at the time of arrest.
If a tree falls in a park and a softball player is under it, the city might have to pay damages, court rulesBy adamg - 5/7/12 - 11:38 am
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today the city of Newton will have to show a lower court why it shouldn't be made to pay a softball player for serious injuries caused by a tree falling on him while he was waiting his turn at bat.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today a Somerville police officer returning home to Woburn did nothing wrong when he grabbed the keys of a guy who plowed into him at a red light on Montvale Avenue.
Joseph Limone had his OUI conviction - his seventh - overturned by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, which said the officer had no right to detain Limone to await a Woburn cop because he was off duty, in another town and the principle of citizen arrest didn't apply because average joes can't detain somebody for a misdemeanor, such as first-time OUI, which is all the cop knew he was dealing with.
But the state's highest court ruled today that what Officer Robert Kelleher did wasn't an arrest at all, but something anybody might do when rammed by a guy who appeared to be drunk - to try to keep the guy from leaving until the police could arrive:
The Supreme Judicial Court today threw out a Palmer man's 60-day jail sentence for driving after his license had been revoked because his lawyer was not allowed to examine anybody from the Registry about a letter it supposedly sent him about the revocation.
Peter Parenteau pleaded guilty to drunk driving in 2007 in exchange for a sentence that included a two-year license revocation. He says he never received notice from the Registry that it had decided on its own to suspend his license for ten years - and that the Registry had actually issued him a new license after the two-year period ran out.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today state environmental officials have the right to tell the owners of the Plymouth nuclear plant to take steps to protect fish and other animals from being sucked into the plant's cooling system.
State officials say they don't actually have any plans to order changes, but Entergy Nuclear Generation sued anyway, saying state law only gives the Department of Environmental Protection the right to regulate what comes out at the other end of the cooling process. A lower-court judge agreed, but the state's highest court said that was balderdash.
The Supreme Judicial Court told Daniel Rogers today it didn't believe for a second he somehow acquired a knife after runing out of a Longwood Galleria CVS with 11 tubes of stolen toothpaste and that he was forced to stab two of the clerks chasing him, one fatally.
Court: Street gangs not always organized enough to be wiretapped by informants under current state lawBy adamg - 4/8/11 - 11:07 am
The Supreme Judicial Court today threw out incriminating statements made by a Brockton murder suspect to an informant wearing a wire, in a case that involves the state wiretap law and its definition of "organized crime."
The state's wiretap law generally forbids the recording of conversations without both parties' consent, with only a few exceptions, including investigations into "organized crime." The court ruled that while the group of men with whom Paulo Tavares was riding when he allegedly pumped 14 bullets into a man in another car may have been criminals, they were not organized enough under the law to warrant surreptitious recording by a police informant:
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today the state public-records law does not extend to judicial rulings sealing records held by state agencies.
However, it also said a man seeking a look at some 5.5 million pages of records in a foreclosure-scandal case can try to convince a judge that an order sealing all the documents was overly broad.
Court upholds sentence for son of Boston police officer convicted of plotting Columbine-style massacreBy adamg - 10/27/10 - 11:27 am
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Joseph Nee was fairly convicted on a charge he conspired with other students at Marshfield High School to massacre students and teachers they didn't like.
A Watertown man today became the latest convicted drug dealer to have his verdict overturned because of a Supreme Court ruling that defense lawyers must be allowed to cross-examine experts who certify that what police found was a particular type of drug or weapon.
In the case of Carlos Fernandez, arrested in 2005, that was the easy part for the Supreme Judicial Court: The justices ruled that the certification that the white powder found by police in a bag in his car was cocaine was a critical part of proving his guilt and that therefore he deserves a new trial under Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, because his lawyer had no chance to question the person who signed the document.
The thornier part for the justices was deciding whether the cocaine should be allowed into evidence at all.
But the Supreme Judicial court today upheld the murder conviction of a New Bedford man despite rewards paid to two of the witnesses against him for helping to solve the crime.
The court agreed that the letters the DA wrote to a private group certifying the help given by the two violated the rules of conduct for Massachusetts lawyers, which "prohibit the practice of compensating fact witnesses beyond their time lost and for expenses reasonably incurred in attending or testifying."
The court continued, however, that because prosecutors disclosed the potential rewards ($3,000 each) to Wayne Miranda's lawyers before the two testified and because the lawyers questioned the pair on the possible implications of getting paid to testify, Miranda's right to due process was not violated.
Miranda was convicted of second-degree homicide in 2008 for handing another man a gun used to gun down a man in 2005.
The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the gun and drug-distribution convictions of a Cape man who allegedly moved out of Barnstable to avoid a lengthy investigation by Cape law-enforcement officials.
Joseph Mendes had sought to overturn his convictions, arguing that a Barnstable District Court judge had no authority to issue search warrants for his new digs in Bourne, because Bourne is not part of that court's district. Evidence from the searches authorized by those warrants was used to convict him.
Nuh uh, the state's highest court says:
Contrary to the positions taken by the defendant, as well as the Commonwealth, we hold that where the application is supported by probable cause, a District Court judge or magistrate may issue a search warrant authorizing a search for evidence at any specified location in the Commonwealth, regardless whether the criminal activity to which the warrant application pertains is located within or outside that court's territorial jurisdiction.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today a gun allegedly tossed over a fence by a man being chased by police can be used against him.
At issue was when Messiah Franklin felt he was under police orders to stop and submit to officers after a carful of cops noticed him and another guy hanging out on Harmon Street in Mattapan on the evening of Nov. 18, 2006.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Bristol County can't charge inmates for basic necessities.
In a ruling that cites the history of sheriffs dating to Roman times, the state's highest court said that just because state law doesn't enumerate just what it is a sheriff is supposed to do doesn't mean Sheriff Thomas Hodgson can do whatever he wants. Although common law dating back hundreds of years requires sheriffs to provide custodial care of prisoners, nothing in it grants him the right to levy fees against those under his care, the court ruled.