The Supreme Judicial Court today ordered a new trial for a man whose gun-possession conviction it overturned earlier this year, ruling that while it is true the Supreme Court's latest Second Amendment ruling would have nullified his conviction, he was tried before that ruling was announced, so it goofed in overturning his conviction.
In its spring ruling, the state's highest court said it had no choice but to overturn Carlos Guardado's 2019 conviction for illegal gun possession in Watertown because Middlesex County prosecutors never submitted proof that Guardado did not have a license for the gun and ammo he was found with in an Arsenal Street parking lot. The court ruled that a Massachusetts law that made defendants prove they have a license, rather than prosecutors proving they do not have one, was invalidated by a 2022 Supreme Court case that made it legal for people to carry guns and ammo for personal protection outside the home.
The court did uphold his conviction for possession of a high-capacity magazine, which are outlawed in Massachusetts.
That Supreme Court ruling did not invalidate Massachusetts gun-registration requirements - among the toughest in the nation - but it did change who has to supply proof of what when it comes to gun ownership, the SJC said.
The Middlesex County District Attorney's office, however, asked the SJC to reconsider its specific ruling in Guardado's case, arguing it was unfair to effectively penalize it for not providing proof at a time that proof was not required.
In its ruling today, the court agreed and said Guardado could be tried again on the question, and that this time, prosecutors would have to prove he did not have a license.
The court said the doctrine of double jeopardy does not apply in this case:
Ordinarily, the prohibition against double jeopardy bars retrial if, as the Commonwealth concedes, there was insufficient evidence at trial to establish an essential element of the crime. However, the Commonwealth had no reason to introduce evidence of the defendant's lack of licensure under then-prevailing law. Because the Commonwealth is not being given a second bite at the proverbial apple to supply evidence that it was required to muster in the earlier trial, double jeopardy does not bar retrial.