Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Sheridan

Contributing Editor: Rachel Murray

Commonwealth v. Sheridan, 25 N.E.3d 875 (2015)

I. Facts

Early one morning, the defendant, Matthew J. Sheridan, was pulled over by Officer Sean Glennon for an unilluminated headlight. While Glennon was conducting the stop, Sheridan appeared nervous, his hands shaking as he “fumbled” around for his license and registration. A second officer, Scott Walker, was patrolling the area, stopped at the scene, and approached the passenger window. Walker looked in the car’s passenger window and saw a small plastic sandwich bag sticking out from under a t-shirt on the floor; the bag appeared to contain about one-ounce of marijuana.

Walker indicated the presence of marijuana to Glennon, who then ordered Sheridan out of the car; a pat frisk revealed a cell phone and $285.00 cash. Glennon handcuffed Sheridan and searched the car, recovering two additional bags of marijuana. Sheridan was transported to the police station where, during booking for possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, the officers seized the cell phone and cash. Glennon proceeded to read the text messages in the cell phone, some of which appeared to be orders to purchase marijuana.

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Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Burgos

Contributing Editor: Sameera Navidi

Commonwealth v. Burgos, 19 N.E.3d 843 (2014)

I. Facts

On July 4, 2005, Dana Haywood was shot and killed in the Monte Park neighborhood of New Bedford. Three years later, Rico Almeida contacted the District Attorney’s office about Haywood’s murder. At the time, Almeida was sharing a cell with the defendant, John Burgos, when he found out that the defendant murdered Haywood. Almeida offered to help police by wearing a concealed recording device to get the defendant’s confession on tape. In order to secure a search warrant, police submitted an affidavit, which contained information about police officers’ prior dealings with Almeida. The affidavit also detailed the background of gang involvement between the defendant’s gang, United Front, and Haywood’s gang, Monte Park. Additionally, the affidavit stated that police suspected Haywood’s death was in retaliation for a United Front member’s murder.

A Superior Court judge issued the search warrant, which allowed police officers to provide Almeida a recording device to record a conversation with the defendant. The defendant admitted on tape to being one of the shooters that killed Haywood.

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Article Preview: “Mature Person Preferred”

Contributing Editor: John Mara

The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 with the purpose of outlawing discrimination by a property owner when renting or selling a dwelling based on “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” Section 3604(c) of the Fair Housing Act, which deals specifically with discriminatory advertising practices, prohibits housing advertisements through any medium that show “any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Since the passage of that act, applying section 3604(c) has become more difficult due to issues such as internet advertising and First Amendment challenges.

This Note examines the federal court system’s interpretation of section 3604(c) of the Fair Housing Act. To determine whether an advertisement has violated section 3604(c), the courts use the “ordinary reader” test to determine whether an “ordinary reader would understand an advertisement to suggest a preference for or against a protected group.” In Ragin v. New York Times Company, the Second Circuit interpreted the term “preference” to mean “any ad that would discourage an ordinary reader of a particular race.” The Seventh Circuit also equated the word “preference” with discouraging an ordinary reader in Jancik v. Department of Housing & Urban Development. However, in Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. v. Connor Group, the Sixth Circuit declined to follow the Second and Seventh Circuits, ruling that the terms “preference” and “discourage” are not synonymous, and therefore the ordinary reader standard should apply any time an ordinary reader would believe an advertisement indicates a preference. These three decisions created a circuit split on the issue of whether the ordinary reader test applies to advertisements that discourage readers, or merely show a preference.

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Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Valentin

Contributing Editor: Sarah Gage

Commonwealth v. Valentin, 470 Mass. 186 (2014)

I. Facts

In July 1991, Timothy Bond stole cocaine from Angel Ruidiaz, who was selling drugs for the defendant’s brother, Simon. Ruidiaz paid Simon for the stolen drugs, but Simon told Ruidiaz that he was “still going to get” Bond. Later that same month, while Bond was with a group of friends, including Kenneth Stokes, Simon and the defendant approached Bond from behind and shot him in the back of the head. Bond fell to the ground and Simon shot him again in the head. Stokes testified that the defendant next stomped on the victim’s head while making a profane death threat. Then the defendant and Simon fled on foot and, as they were running away, the defendant told Simon, “Man, put the gun away, the police are coming.”

At the trial, the defendant’s primary defense was an alibi, calling three witnesses to testify that he was playing dominoes elsewhere at the time of the shooting. The Commonwealth called four witnesses, including Stokes, who were at the shooting. All four of these witnesses testified that the defendant either “kicked” or “stomped” on the victim’s head after Simon fired the second shot. However, only Stokes testified that the defendant made a profane statement while he kicked or stomped on the victim’s head. On cross-examination, two witnesses acknowledged they did not tell the police shortly after the incident that they saw the defendant stomp on Bond. Stokes, though cross-examined, was not questioned about his failure to initially tell the police about the defendant’s statement. On the second day of jury deliberations, defendant’s trial counsel, Robinson, asked for the judge’s permission to have her law partner stand in for her. Although her partner had not worked on the case and had only discussed it with Robinson, the judge granted the request without seeking defendant’s consent to the substitution.

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Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Leclair

Contributing Editor: Taylore Karpa

Commonwealth v. Leclair, 469 Mass. 777 (2014)

I. Facts

On May 2, 2012 the defendant was arraigned on charges of assault and battery, following an incident between him and his girlfriend that occurred earlier that day at Matthew Sheehan’s (“Sheehan”) apartment. The case went to trial on August 1, 2012, and it was on that day that the Commonwealth first disclosed its intent to call Sheehan as a witness. The judge appointed an attorney to represent Sheehan and to counsel him regarding the potential assertion of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. After consulting with Sheehan about the questions he could expect upon examination, his attorney informed the court that Sheehan intended to invoke his privilege. Sheehan sought to assert this privilege in order to refuse answering questions that might expose him to criminal charges for possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy to violate the drug laws. After an in camera hearing on this issue, the judge ruled that Sheehan would not be permitted to invoke this privilege. As grounds for this ruling, the judge stated that Sheehan failed to demonstrate that he faced an actual risk that his testimony would “tend to indicate involvement in illegal activity, as opposed to a mere imaginary, remote, or speculative possibility of prosecution.”

The case proceeded to trial and Sheehan took the stand as the first witness. During the cross-examination, defense counsel posed questions to Sheehan regarding his use of illegal drugs on the night of the incident. Sheehan responded by invoking his privilege against self-incrimination. The judge then instructed Sheehan to answer the question at which time Sheehan testified that he had used cocaine that night. Defense counsel then proceeded to ask Sheehan further questions regarding his cocaine use. Despite the judge’s prior instruction, Sheehan responded each time by invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege and refusing to answer, as instructed by his attorney.

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Contributor Profile: Adam Tanner

Contributing Editor: Suzanne Donnelly

Renowned journalist and author Adam Tanner presented his most recent book, What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data—Lifeblood of Big Business—and the End of Privacy as We Know It, at the New England Law Review’s Book Symposium on February 25, 2015.

Adam Tanner earned his B.A. at Columbia University and his M.P.A. at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He worked for Reuters News Agency from 1996 to 2011, serving as Bureau Chief for the Balkans in Belgrade, Serbia, and San Francisco, overseeing northern California, Silicon Valley, and parts of the American West. Previous postings include Germany, Russia, and Washington D.C. He was also recognized for his impressive work as part of the Reuters team cited in 2012 as a Pulitzer finalist in international reporting.

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Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Guzman

Contributing Editor: Wendy Hansen

Commonwealth v. Guzman, 469 Mass. 492 (2014)

I. Issues

There are three main issues in this case:

  1. Whether the imposition of the Global Positioning System (“GPS”) is mandatory under chapter 265, section 47 of the Massachusetts General Laws;
  2. Whether the statutory mandate violates substantive and procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Articles 1, 10, 11, and 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights; and
  3. Whether the statutory mandate constitutes unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article Fourteen under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

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On Remand: Zitz, Exploring the Newly Enacted Massachusetts E-Discovery Rules

Vast amounts of personal information is placed on social media profiles and websites daily; as a result many attorneys are avidly seeking to use the material as evidence—“It’s one thing to make a fool of yourself in public, but some folks seem to excel at stupidity in front of the entire world.” Millions of Americans spend an enormous amount of time on social media interacting with family, friends, and rekindling past relationships; a danger in posting information to these sites is that the information may be used in court due to the scope of electronic discovery (“e-discovery”).

Although not all states have enacted specific e-discovery rules, the effect of e-discovery is drastic due to the abundance of easily accessible information. As the intricacies of electronically stored information (“ESI”) grow because of developments in technology, the need for efficient discovery management grows as well. “Even without having to worry about social media, preservation of electronic information is fraught with danger.” In January 2014, Massachusetts amended its Rules of Civil Procedure to include e-discovery rules. From an efficiency standpoint, amendments should be made to specifically address issues with social media and the authentication of electronic information.

Part I of this Note discusses the differences between traditional discovery and e-discovery. Part II argues that the recently enacted Massachusetts e-discovery rules will be more efficient than the Federal e-discovery rules. Parts III and IV argue that amendments must be made to the Massachusetts rules addressing social media and authentication issues. These Parts further propose standards for such amendments.

Read more from the most recent On Remand article, Exploring the Newly Enacted Massachusetts E-Discovery Rules by Business Managing Editor Julianna Zitz here.

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Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Howard

Contributing Editor: Kristy Wilson

Commonwealth v. Howard, 469 Mass. 721 (2014)

I. Facts

On January 28, 2009, Maurice Ricketts was shot in the head while working at Bay State Pool Supplies in Cambridge. The defendant, Clyde Howard, was a handyman at Bay State. After taking out the trash, the defendant entered the warehouse and spoke with the victim. There was yelling, and the defendant “pulled out a gun, and pointed it at the victim,” and then chased him through the warehouse. The defendant fired his gun once, missed the victim, and then continued to follow him out of the warehouse. The operations manager alerted the branch and assistant managers and called 911. The managers ran toward the warehouse and heard two shots fired. They saw the defendant “facing the back of the dumpster with his arm outstretched and pointed slightly downward, and then heard two additional shots.” They then “saw the defendant walk toward the back door, stop, return to the dumpster area, and fire an additional shot.” After the final shot, the defendant “ran to a white van, and drove away.” The victim was found behind the dumpster with a faint pulse and later died at the emergency room.

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Article Preview: Morrow v. Balaski: When Good Intentions Go Bad

Contributing Editor: Heather Reid

Bullying, both in schools and online, has become a topic of national discussion. In response, many state legislatures have enacted anti-bullying statutes which prohibit bullying both on and off school property. These laws define bullying behavior and require schools to devise and adopt strategies for prevention and intervention. Notably, they do not provide victims of bullying with a private right of action against schools under the bullying statute.

The plaintiffs in Morrow v. Balaski brought such a cause of action, filing a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Blackhawk High School in Pennsylvania. Brittany and Emily Morrow claimed that the school’s inaction and failure to protect them from bullying by another student violated their substantive Due Process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Primarily, they argued the school had a “special relationship” with its students, therefore establishing a duty to protect them from dangerous situations. The Third Circuit disagreed with the plaintiffs, reaffirming that there is no “special relationship” between public schools and their students; absent that “special relationship,” a school has no duty to protect students from third party actions.

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