Recently in Evidence Category

August 4, 2014

Appeals Court Reverses Conviction Based on Insufficient Evidence that Knife was a 'Dangerous Weapon

Last month, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a criminal defendant's conviction for carrying a dangerous weapon due to insufficient evidence that the knife he was carrying was the type of knife prohibited under the applicable statute.

In Commonwealth v. Higgins, the defendant was convicted of violating M.G.L. c. 269 ยง10(b), which makes it illegal for anyone to carry certain kinds of knives deemed to be dangerous weapons. This conviction came as somewhat of a surprise, as the jury failed to also convict the defendant of the aggravated assault and battery charge that was the centerpiece of the trial.

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May 12, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Constitutionality of Searches of Arrestees' Cell Phones

On April 29, 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two criminal cases that have asked the Court to determine whether searching a person's cell phone at the time he is arrested is a proper "search incident to arrest," or an unreasonable search that infringes on the arrestee's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. One of those cases - U.S. v. Wurie - is on appeal from the First Circuit in Massachusetts.

In Wurie, the police arrested the defendant in connection with a drug deal. Among other items that were on the defendant at the time of the arrest, the police seize two cell phones from him. After they were seized, the police observed that one of the cell phones repeatedly received phone calls from a number identified as "my house" on the external caller ID screen. A few minutes later, one police officer opened the cell phone and looked at the defendant's call log. In doing so, the officer observed a photograph of a woman holding a baby, which was set as the phone's wallpaper. The officer then navigated the cell phone to determine what phone number was associated with the calls from "my house."

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March 31, 2014

Appeals Court Reverses Shooting Conviction Based on Insufficient Evidence

In Commonwealth v. Lobo, the defendant was convicted of two counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, after he was tried for the shootings of two brothers on Hancock Street in Brockton in 2005. At trial, the Commonwealth called only one eyewitness to testify. That witness, the victims' father, testified that he heard rapid gunshots fired while a white car was driving in front of him and his sons. He did not see a gun, a muzzle flash, or the faces of any of the people in the car. He was unable to say whether the gunshot sounds had come from the area of the white car, but assumed that they had.

The father further testified that when the white car drove away, he discovered that his sons had both been shot. He then heard the car return at a high speed and a car door open. He momentarily saw a male, who he later identified as the defendant, standing outside of the car. The father testified that he then heard two or three more shots fired, but he could not tell where those shots had come from. He never saw a gun in the defendant's possession.

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