5th Amendment, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, Editor Blog, Fifth Amendment, New England Law Review, Police Interrogation, Policy, Privacy, property, Student Writing, Use of Force

Article Preview: One Step Forward Two Steps Back: The SJC’s Incorrect Decision in Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt Deprives Technology Users of Their Constitutional Rights

Contributing Editor: Cody Zane
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individual criminal defendants against self-incrimination. However, as the world continues to develop at such a rapid pace and technology becomes synonymous with everyday life, Fifth Amendment protections become clouded. In 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), in Commonwealth v. Galfgatt, significantly reduced Fifth Amendments protections by failing to extend these rights to the defendant, who was compelled to produce decryption keys encrypting mortgage schemes. Specifically, the SJC lowered the evidentiary burden of reasonable particularity in its forgone conclusion analysis. Additionally, the SJC failed to apply Article 12 of the Massachusetts constitution in its analysis.

4th Amendment, criminal law, Editor Blog, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Mass. Crim. Dig.

Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Thomas

Contributing Editor: Eric Gillespie

Commonwealth v. Thomas, 469 Mass. 531 (2014)

I. Facts

In the early morning of July 6, 2006, a three-story Brockton house erupted in flames. The first-floor occupants were unharmed; however, second-floor residents and guests threw the children out the window to a passerby and then jumped themselves. Those on the third floor could not escape on their own. While firefighters saved three people, including the one-month-old baby, the baby’s mother was trapped in the bathroom and later died of smoke inhalation at the hospital. Michelle Johnson rented the first-floor apartment. The defendant, Chiteara M. Thomas, and her boyfriend, Cornelius Brown, stayed in the first-floor apartment with Johnson. Prior to the fire, Johnson demanded that Thomas move out. The defendant, angry at being tossed out, repeatedly threatened “to kill Johnson and burn the house down.”