Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Articles Posted in Manslaughter

Fans of the hit podcast Serial will be interested to learn that Adnan Syed, the man whose murder conviction is the focus of the show, has been granted a new trial. Last week, Maryland’s second-highest court upheld a lower-court’s ruling that—due to deficient counsel in his original trial—Syed deserves a new trial.

The appeals court’s three-judge panel said on Thursday that his legal counsel’s “deficient performance prejudiced Syed’s defense.” They went on to say that if the defense team had managed to contact even one witness with an alibi that could “have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror,” the outcome may have been different. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Multiple Inconsistencies

The first season of Serial followed the investigation into the murder conviction of Adnan Syed. About 18 years ago, Syed was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. But the show’s host, Sarah Koenig, uncovered multiple inconsistencies in the case against Syed. For example, a woman by the name of Asia McLean should have been contacted as an alibi witness; she reported having seen Syed at the same time Lee’s murder was alleged to have occurred. However, not only was McLean not contacted by the defense team, her testimony never appeared in court.

Although Thursday’s ruling upholds a previous decision to retry Syed’s case in Maryland’s circuit court, there is a good possibility that prosecutors will appeal.

In addition to failing to contact McLean, Syed’s defense team neglected to question evidence used to trace Syed to the crime scene, including the reliability of a cell phone tower that placed him at the site where Lee’s body was found in a shallow grave.

Failure to Present an Alibi Witness

Syed’s lawyers argued that his former counsel provided ineffective assistance, primarily based on the fact that Asia McLean—who said Syed was at the library at the time of the murder—was never presented as an alibi witness. Had the jury been given this information, it is possible that a reasonable doubt may have been raised in the mind of at least one juror. Judge Martin Welch agreed, saying that Syed’s previous counsel “fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment.”

Prosecutors have 30 days within which to appeal this decision or proceed with the new trial. Whether Syed is granted bail while awaiting his new trial has not yet been determined. A MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with murder or any other crime. Continue reading

Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State University, died last year due to injuries sustained in a hazing incident. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which was supposed to be alcohol-free due to a previous suspension, led Piazza and several other pledges through a hazing ritual dubbed “the gauntlet.” Surveillance videos show a heavily-intoxicated Piazza falling several times throughout the night, including once down a flight of stairs. In total, 18 Beta Theta Pi members were criminally charged for their involvement in Piazza’s death.

In September, Judge Allen Sinclair threw out several charges against fraternity members, including some of the most serious. But last week, Pennsylvania District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled some of those charges, including those for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. “Today we refiled the previously dismissed charges for Tim Piazza’s unnecessary death,” said Parks Miller. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Piazza’s family believes that the reckless behavior of the defendants was directly responsible for the death of their son. According to their official statement, the fraternity brothers abandoned Piazza when they realized he was in “dire trouble.” In addition to seeking justice for their son, the family also wants to ensure that this type of behavior is stopped.

“Had it not been for the crimes committed that night, Tim would be with us today,” said Piazza’s family in the statement. “This is about bringing justice to a group of individuals who felt they were above the law and entitled to abuse and torture others because it was ‘tradition.’ This is also about justice for Tim and making a statement that this behavior is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue to harm others.”

Are Universities Responsible?

In one of recent history’s largest criminal cases against a fraternity, 18 members of Beta Theta Pi were charged in more than 1,000 counts. Piazza’s death has prompted a nationwide discussion about university oversight of fraternities. Penn State claims it was not responsible for enforcing the fraternity’s prohibition on alcohol, and has since banned the chapter from the campus.

“This is a huge challenge because we don’t own the houses, we don’t own the property, we aren’t the national organization governing fraternities,” said Penn State’s president, Eric Barron.

In addition to the aforementioned felony charges, other charges against fraternity members include reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence, furnishing alcohol, and hazing. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

University Crack Down

The Piazza case is just one of several deadly hazing rituals at U.S. colleges and universities in recent years. Deaths at Baruch College, Fresno State University and Northern Illinois University, among others, may have been chalked up to “boys being boys” in years past. But each of these hazing-related deaths has resulted in criminal charges. Institutions of higher learning are also cracking down on binge drinking and sexual assault, banning hundreds of fraternity chapters from operating on campus, and prohibiting freshman from pledging at all. Continue reading

On September 14, an 18-year-old college student from Roswell, Georgia was killed during a hazing incident at Louisiana State University. Maxwell Gruver died of complications related to acute alcohol intoxication while trying to join Phi Delta Theta. Students hoping to be accepted into a particular fraternity or sorority are called pledges. When pledging a fraternity or sorority, the student will likely have to attend mandatory meetings, social activities, and other events. Hazing, however, should not be a requirement.

Hazing is frowned upon by most colleges and universities, and in many cases, it’s criminal. Hazing is an action or situation intended to make the pledge uncomfortable. It is generally reckless, and can endanger the student’s mental or physical health. In the case above, witnesses claim that Gruver was made to drink at least 10 “pulls” of hard liquor on the evening before his death. According to officials, the freshman’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.495 percent, more than six times Louisiana’s legal limit for driving.

Felony Negligent Homicide Charge

Ten people were arrested for misdemeanor hazing that lead to Gruver’s death. One of those arrested, Patrick Forde, is from Westwood, Massachusetts. Another defendant, Matthew Alexander Naquin, is facing a felony negligent homicide charge for his role in Gruver’s death. According to witnesses, Naquin disliked Gruver. He targeted the young pledge, forcing him to drink more than everyone else.

The morning after the hazing incident, fraternity members found Gruver lying on a couch, and were unsure if he was breathing. He was rushed to Baton Route hospital, where he later died. All of the 10 suspects, ages 18 to 21, were Phi Delta Theta members. The LSU chapter has been closed by the fraternity’s national office.

‘‘The ramifications of hazing can be devastating,’’ said LSU President F. King Alexander. ‘‘Maxwell Gruver’s family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences – all due to a series of poor decisions.’’ A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been charged with hazing, or any other criminal offense.

Criminal Penalties for Hazing

Many universities have policies specifically banning hazing. Further, the dangerous ritual can result in criminal penalties, including up to 30 days in jail. And negligent homicide can carry a penalty of five years in prison. Despite the consequences, some fraternity and sorority chapters still engage in hazing. In February, a Penn State student was killed in an alcohol-related hazing incident involving the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. To date, 14 of that fraternity’s members are facing criminal charges in that student’s death.

Investigators working on the LSU hazing case are studying text messages, and have learned of possible videos. They have also gathered additional evidence, including a bag containing a “pledge test.” A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with hazing, or any other crime. Continue reading

A horrific tragedy earlier this month reminds us that a vehicle can quickly become deadly on a hot day. Last week, the body of three-year-old Myles Hill was discovered in a parked van at the Little Miracles Academy day care center in Orlando. The little boy, along with several other children, had been transported from one of Little Miracles’ locations to another. When the child was found, authorities believe he had been in the van for nearly 12 hours.

According to police reports, Myles’ grandmother called the center when he didn’t get dropped off in the afternoon. Employees reported that the child had never been seen at the center that day, prompting an immediate investigation into his whereabouts. At about 8:30 that evening, Myles was found on the floor of the van, which had been parked at the center since 9:00 a.m. Outside temperatures had reached 93 degrees that day.

No Head Count

Hello, folks! You may remember be. This is Sam Goldberg (AKA “Attorney Sam”). I used to be your friendly blogger on this site on a daily basis. When last we spoke, I told you that I would be back and also doing more regular blogs elsewhere. While I have not begun the latter, I thought I would revisit the Bostoncriminallawyerblog.com to make a few postings.

If nothing else, to remind you that I am still here.

The first thing I thought I would discuss is the recent verdict of “Guilty” in the Michelle Carter matter.

As you probably know, the case involved a suicidal young man, Conrad Roy III (hereinafter, the “Deceased”) who was a friend of Michelle Carter(hereinafter, the “Defendant”). Summed up, the Deceased was communicating with the Defendant via text while he as filling his truck full of lethal fumes in a suicide attempt.  Through it, the Defendant was encouraging him to follow through with the suicide. Even to the point of ordering that he get back into the truck at a moment when he was having second thoughts.

He obeyed…and died.

The Defendant was charged with of involuntary manslaughter. In a surprise move, the Defendant’s lawyer waived a jury trial and opted for a bench trial. In other words, a judge would decide the verdict, not a jury.

The gamble did not pay off.

Continue reading

In 2014, then-17-year-old Michelle Carter allegedly encouraged her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy IIII to commit suicide. She did it through text. Earlier this week, Carter’s manslaughter trial commenced, with prosecutors arguing that the now-20-year-old Plainville woman’s texts urged Roy to take his own life.

Both Carter and Roy had a history of mental illness. In fact, Roy had attempted suicide in 2012. But what could have possibly motivated Carter to send such damning texts to her boyfriend? Prosecutors claim that she was lonely and did it to improve her social life. According to testimony at the trial on Tuesday, Carter sent the following text to a friend, Samantha Boardman:

“Yeah I have school friends that all say they love me . . . [but] no one ever asks to hang out with me. No one ever calls me or texts me. It’s always me who has to do it.’’

To another friend, Carter texted: “Stop telling me how wonderful and beautiful I am. Beautiful girls get invited to parties and their friends call and wanna hang out . . . I have like no friends. I am alone all the time.”

Is it possible that Carter believed she’d finally get the attention she craved in the wake of her boyfriend’s tragic suicide? In yet another text to an acquaintance who claims not to know the defendant well, Carter wrote, “I was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself.” A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with manslaughter or any other crime.

What is Carter’s Defense for Her Actions?

Carter has been struggling with mental health issues for years. As such, she was taking the prescription drug Celexa for depression when she encouraged Roy to commit suicide via text. Studies have shown that Celexa, the brand name for citalopram, is known to cause “impulse control issues,” which may have contributed to Carter’s “lashing out,” and other abnormal behaviors. If this is true, the young woman’s actions may have been out of her control. Carter and Roy had actually bonded over mental health struggles. In fact, according to Carter’s defense attorney, she had previously attempted to convince Roy to seek psychiatric treatment.

Although the Celexa may have contributed to Carter’s behavior that day, her behaviors following Roy’s suicide have not helped her case at all. According to text records, she texted Lynn Roy, her deceased boyfriend’s mother, multiple times in the days following his death. In these texts, she expressed sympathy and a desire to help, but she conveniently left out any knowledge of Roy’s plans or information about their conversations leading up to his death. Despite several text messages urging Roy to kill himself, Carter texted the following message to Roy’s mother after his death:

“You tried your hardest, I tried my hardest, everyone tried their hardest to save him. But he had his mind set on taking his life.” A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing criminal charges. Continue reading

In 2014, then-17-year-old Michelle Carter allegedly encouraged her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy IIII to commit suicide. She did it through text. Earlier this week, Carter’s manslaughter trial commenced, with prosecutors arguing that the now-20-year-old Plainville woman’s texts urged Roy to take his own life.

Both Carter and Roy had a history of mental illness. In fact, Roy had attempted suicide in 2012. But what could have possibly motivated Carter to send such damning texts to her boyfriend? Prosecutors claim that she was lonely and did it to improve her social life. According to testimony at the trial on Tuesday, Carter sent the following text to a friend, Samantha Boardman:

“Yeah I have school friends that all say they love me . . . [but] no one ever asks to hang out with me. No one ever calls me or texts me. It’s always me who has to do it.’’

To another friend, Carter texted: “Stop telling me how wonderful and beautiful I am. Beautiful girls get invited to parties and their friends call and wanna hang out . . . I have like no friends. I am alone all the time.”

Is it possible that Carter believed she’d finally get the attention she craved in the wake of her boyfriend’s tragic suicide? In yet another text to an acquaintance who claims not to know the defendant well, Carter wrote, “I was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself.” A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with manslaughter or any other crime.

What is Carter’s Defense for Her Actions?

Carter has been struggling with mental health issues for years. As such, she was taking the prescription drug Celexa for depression when she encouraged Roy to commit suicide via text. Studies have shown that Celexa, the brand name for citalopram, is known to cause “impulse control issues,” which may have contributed to Carter’s “lashing out,” and other abnormal behaviors. If this is true, the young woman’s actions may have been out of her control. Carter and Roy had actually bonded over mental health struggles. In fact, according to Carter’s defense attorney, she had previously attempted to convince Roy to seek psychiatric treatment.

Although the Celexa may have contributed to Carter’s behavior that day, her behaviors following Roy’s suicide have not helped her case at all. According to text records, she texted Lynn Roy, her deceased boyfriend’s mother, multiple times in the days following his death. In these texts, she expressed sympathy and a desire to help, but she conveniently left out any knowledge of Roy’s plans or information about their conversations leading up to his death. Despite several text messages urging Roy to kill himself, Carter texted the following message to Roy’s mother after his death:

“You tried your hardest, I tried my hardest, everyone tried their hardest to save him. But he had his mind set on taking his life.” A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing criminal charges. Continue reading

In most cases, if a landlord’s negligence leads to an unsafe condition on their property, the landlord generally won’t be held criminally liable for resulting injuries or death. However, an exception may occur if the landlord’s actions were especially egregious.

Last December, a fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist collective in Oakland, California. The space, which had been rented to artists as a living and working space, was also used for parties, similar to the dance party that was underway when the tragedy occurred.

The art collective’s manager, Derick Alamena and his assistant, Max Harris, were arrested earlier this week in connection with the deadly blaze. They are each being charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Although it is not believed that either Alamena or Harris had anything to do with starting the fire, their egregious disregard for the safety of tenants and party-goers has elevated their actions to criminal status. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

On Monday, four men who were initially charged with murder pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for the 2013 hazing death of would-be fraternity brother, Chun Hsien Deng. The 18-year-old student died at a weekend retreat for potential Baruch College members of the Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity.

In December 2013, Deng traveled to a rental house in the Poconos for a hazing ritual that – according to a statement by Baruch College – would never have been allowed on campus. In the early morning hours, Deng was forced to strap a heavily-weighted backpack to his back, put on a blindfold, and follow other pledges through the so-called “glass ceiling,” a symbol of the Asian-American plight. According to a grand jury report, Deng became defiant, speaking out of turn and kicking one of the fraternity members. In response, the fraternity members became physically aggressive with their pledge, knocking him to the ground and, eventually, rendering him unconscious.

When the fraternity members realized Deng had lost consciousness, they carried him inside, laid him in front of a fireplace, and attempted to revive him. When his breathing became labored, instead of calling for medical help, they started googling phrases such as “concussion can’t wake up,” and even called a national fraternity official, who advised them to hide anything bearing the fraternity’s symbol.

A recent report issued by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety titled “Unlicensed to Kill” focuses on unlicensed drivers on America’s roadways. According to the report, approximately one out of every five fatal vehicle crashes involves an unlicensed driver, or a driver whose license is in question by law enforcement. The report goes on to say that about 8,500 fatal car accidents are caused by unlicensed drivers annually. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving an unlicensed driver.

The Link Between Fatal Crashes and Unlicensed Drivers

Research has revealed that individuals with license suspensions and cancellations are more likely to use excessive speed, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to be distracted while driving. Of the fatal accidents caused by unlicensed drivers, about 30 percent are caused by drivers who have had at least three license suspensions or cancellations in the previous three years. “It’s like a revolving door. These people are being suspended and suspended and suspended again, and still, they’re driving,” said Lindsay I. Griffin, researcher at the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.Young adults, between the ages of 21 and 34, are the most likely to have a revoked or suspended license. Most disturbing, in nearly 50 percent of the fatal accidents involving an unlicensed driver, the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

No License, No Insurance

Drivers without valid licenses are not eligible for motor vehicle insurance, which means that recovering damages in an accident involving an unlicensed driver is more difficult. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can be added to your existing insurance policy to protect you against extreme losses. This type of coverage will cover full or partial damages if you’re in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have liability insurance, or whose liability limit is too low to cover your expenses. If you don’t already carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, it is in your best interest to add this coverage to your existing policy today. The cost is generally quite small, but it could make a world of difference if you’re involved in an accident with an this type of driver.

How to Avoid an Accident Involving an Unlicensed Driver

It’s impossible to identify unlicensed drivers while you’re driving, so how do you avoid a collision with one of these unlawful drivers? The best way to avoid an accident with any negligent motorist is to always remain alert when driving. Stay focused on the road and avoid distractions, such as texting or talking on the phone, adjusting the stereo or navigation system, and eating or applying makeup. Defensive driving is the single best protection against car crashes. Maintain plenty of distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you, drive at or under the speed limit, and avoid vehicles that appear to be speeding or driving erratically. Continue reading

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