Massachusetts Law Updates

Official Blog of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

Tag Archives: criminal law

Clemency, pardons, commutations Posted on Aug 9

Recently the President signed a number of commutations for federal prisoners; most had been sentenced under now outdated standards for nonviolent drug crimes. Under Article II Section 2 of the Constitution, he has the power to “grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United   …Continue Reading Clemency, pardons, commutations

The Miranda Warning at 50 Posted on Jun 13

On June 13,1966: Miranda rights were established. Also known as the Miranda warning, the Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona established the principle that every person taken into police custody must be informed of their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before questioning, and Sixth Amendment rights   …Continue Reading The Miranda Warning at 50

Can Felons Vote in Massachusetts? Posted on Mar 4

In Massachusetts and some other states, the right to vote is temporarily suspended while a person is incarcerated for a felony offense.  They may vote again after they are released from prison. In some states, even people convicted of a misdemeanor cannot vote while incarcerated. In other   …Continue Reading Can Felons Vote in Massachusetts?

Felony-Murder in Massachusetts Posted on Dec 3

In Commonwealth v. Tejeda, decided yesterday, the Supreme Judicial Court  was asked to decide “whether a defendant who joins with others to commit an armed robbery may be found guilty of murder on the theory of felony-murder for the killing of his accomplice by someone resisting the armed robbery. ” Their   …Continue Reading Felony-Murder in Massachusetts

New District Court Criminal Jury Instructions Posted on May 22

The Massachusetts District Court Department issued 4 new criminal jury instructions in March 2015.  Two instructions address assault on a family and household member (6.270 and 6.275).  The others are on suffocation (6.390) and strangulation (6.395).

New Mandatory Jury Instruction on Reasonable Doubt Posted on Jan 30

New Mandatory Jury Instruction on Reasonable Doubt

For over a century, judges in Massachusetts have been strongly encouraged to use the “Webster” instruction on reasonable doubt, written by Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw in Commonwealth v. Webster, 5 Cush. 295 (1850), when explaining the legal concept to jurors in criminal cases.   In fact, “the Webster charge   …Continue Reading New Mandatory Jury Instruction on Reasonable Doubt

Eyewitness Identification Posted on Jan 13

Yesterday, in Commonwealth v. Gomes, the Supreme Judicial Court issued “a new provisional jury instruction regarding eyewitness identification.” The court explained, “We have made the jury instruction provisional to allow for public comment and possible future revision before we declare it a model, but it should   …Continue Reading Eyewitness Identification

Eyewitness Identification — Take A Closer Look Posted on Nov 21

The Committee on Science, Technology and Law, recently released a report on the practice of eyewitness identification. The report can be read online or downloaded at no charge. For media coverage about the report see the CSTL page. For materials available at the Trial Court Law Libraries, search the   …Continue Reading Eyewitness Identification — Take A Closer Look