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Articles Posted in Murder

Michelle Carter has been released early from prison.

The case that sparked legal precedent and resulted in polarizing, nationwide discussions has once again made headlines, as Michelle Carter – the 23-year-old Plainville, MA woman who was sentenced to manslaughter after encouraging her then-boyfriend through text messages to go through with a suicide attempt – was released early on Thursday, Jan. 23 from her cell in the Bristol County House of Corrections.

Carter was originally sentenced to two and a half years in prison in August of 2017, with 15 months to serve and five years of probation. Her release on Thursday comes marks around 11 months of time served.

Reports indicate that Carter was released early from prison due to a significant accrual of good behavior – including working in the prison’s community garden and serving food in the kitchen. Inmates in Massachusetts are permitted to earn 10 days off their sentences each month if they perform various functions – like volunteering for jobs and services in the jail – and avoiding further trouble while incarcerated.

A case unlike any before it

The case generated nationwide appeal because of its unprecedented nature. Carter did not physically coerce Conrad Roy to get back into his truck and go forward with his suicide attempt, however the sheer amount of evidence presented by the prosecution through text messages made it difficult to argue that she wasn’t, in some way, legally culpable for his going through with it.

For example, the prosecution showed how Carter – who entered into a long-distance relationship in February of 2012 – sent text messages to Roy over the course of two weeks in 2014 that encouraged him to commit suicide or belittled him for being hesitant about committing suicide more than 40 times. Roy had also suffered from mental health issues and had attempted suicide in the past, facts that Carter was aware of.

Carter even was shown to have had two conversations allotting to over 80 minutes with Roy on July 12, 2014 – the day that he ultimately went through with his suicide – and even admitted to sharing blame for his death.

“Sam his death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I [expletive] told him to get back in,” Carter was shown to have said in a text to a friend. “Sam because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldn’t have him live the way he was living anymore I couldn’t do it I wouldn’t let him,” another text continued.

Trial Judge Lawrence Moniz ultimately convicted Carter of involuntary manslaughter, concluding that she had not only coerced Roy to re-enter the truck where he ultimately succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning, but had also refused to call for help despite knowing the scenario he was in. Continue reading

In January 2017, the bodies of 32-year-old Jenna Pellegrini and 48-year-old Christine Sullivan were found under a backyard tarp at a home in Farmington, New Hampshire. Each woman had suffered multiple stab wounds. Among the evidence collected at the home was an Amazon Echo smart speaker (commonly referred to as Alexa), which the prosecution believes may have recorded crucial sounds during at least one of the murders.

Last week, a spokesperson for Amazon said that the retail giant will not release information “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.” But it looks like that information will soon be on its way. Amazon was ordered by Judge Steven Houran to release all recordings, as well as any relevant data, such as whether anyone’s phone was linked to the Echo device. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

“The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability,” wrote Judge Houran, “from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period.”

Timothy Verrill was arrested and charged with the murders of Pellegrini and Sullivan. Verrill, an acquaintance of Sullivan’s boyfriend, pleaded not guilty to the double murder charges. According to surveillance video, he knew the home’s security code and had been there with both women prior to the night of the murder. Investigators believe that Alexa may have been activated by “wake words” or someone saying “Alexa” from its location in the kitchen, where they believe Sullivan’s murder was committed.

The involvement of tech in criminal cases is quickly becoming commonplace. In October, a Fitbit  contributed to a murder suspect’s arrest, and Amazon had to produce data from another Echo device in a 2015 murder investigation in Bentonville, Arkansas. Although Amazon argued its First Amendment rights in that case, the defendant consented to the release of data. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Privacy vs. Information

Amazon also attempted to avoid this most recent request, saying it was in violation of customer privacy, but Judge Houran disagreed. The argument of privacy vs. information isn’t expected to disappear any time soon. In fact, in a world where nothing is considered to be of value unless it’s recorded and/or shared, the battle has likely only just begun.

Smart devices, such as Alexa, Siri and Google’s Home assistant, are in millions of homes across the country. In addition to playing music and answering questions—such as what’s the weather today and who was the first female supreme court justice—smart devices record what people say. And that recording doesn’t just disappear into the ether. It is sent to a server, where it is…well, we can’t answer that for certain. What is happening to these recordings, and who is listening to our most intimate conversations?

I guess the better question is, what is your privacy worth to you? Continue reading

Brittany Smith (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), 29 years of age of Athol, was found guilty yesterday in a Home Invasion turned deadly case in Franklin Superior Court. The crime took place in Orange in October, 2016. As a result of the violent Home Invasion, two people died according to the Commonwealth. The victims were a 95-year-old man and his 77-year-old wife, Thomas Harty and Joanna Fisher. Mr. Harty died at the scene while Ms. Fisher, who used a wheelchair, died several weeks later.

The Defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder.

The Defendant is the second person convicted in the case. Her boyfriend, 25-year-old Joshua Hart, was convicted last month.

Both face sentencing on May 10th.

According to Boston.com,Authorities say the pair wanted to steal a car and money so they could leave Massachusetts to avoid charges in unrelated cases.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Two Defendants Meaning Two Trials

You may be wondering why there had to be two trials in this matter, where the defendants were charged with the same crime.

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In the Cape Cod Times, the call that the criminal justice system’s “softness and weak” is to blame for the murder of the Yarmouth police office Sean Gannon. In the words of Rodney Collins, Mashpee town manager:

The tragedy of Officer Gannon is another indictment of the Massachusetts criminal justice system, which is overly soft and weak. Gov. Baker and state legislators can express sympathy and sorrow for this shocking loss; however, what they really need to do is act on criminal justice reform that will keep violent offenders from preying upon a civilized society. Call it the “Gannon bill” and make a real difference!

We had been discussing this topic on my postings of April 13, April 19  and April 20th. Feel free to review them.

Now, lets tie this issue up.

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We have been talking about the tragic murder of Police Officer Sean Gannon and his reputed assassin, Thomas Latanowich (hereinafter, the “Defendant”).

Yesterday I shared with you a petition which is online to answer the latest call to penalize judges for the actions certain defendants take.

I think I made my position on that issue relatively clear. Now, let me explain why.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Judges, Powers And Criminal Sentences

First of all, let’s demystify how criminal cases end. There are three options. Either there is an agreement made between the parties, there is a trial or the case gets dismissed for a legal reason…such as there is no evidence that can be presented.

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Last Friday, we ended the week with the tragic story of a slain police officer. He was murdered in the line of duty. His alleged killer was a man with a criminal record “as long as your arm”. Maybe longer.

The murder took place in Yarmouth. The officer was the late Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon. The gent with the record is accused of killing Officer Gannon is Thomas Latanowich (hereinafter, the “Defendant”).

And now, not wasting a moment, the expected call for the quickie solution to a complicated problem has begun.

In short, “blame the judges!”

We have been here before, looking at this same situation. Only the details have changed alittle. This time, the victim was a very well thought of police officer and his police dog,

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The reports are still coming in from Yarmouth. The Boston Herald tells us about the Yarmouth K-9 police officer who was fatally shot and dog wounded. The shots allegedly came from a suspect who was hiding in the attic of a Marstons Mills home as officers searched the house yesterday afternoon, police said.

K-9 officer Sean Gannon, 32, later died at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.

The suspect, later identified as Thomas Latanowich, 29, and hereinafter, the “Defendant”, remained barricaded in the house for several hours in the Barnstable village as SWAT teams ringed the house. The Defendant was later taken into custody and was  arraigned on a murder charge today in Barnstable District Court.

The Defendant pleaded not guilty to murder and was held without bail. His next hearing will be June 26.

The court room was filled during the arraignment with police officers from Yarmouth and Barnstable Police Departments.

The Defendant entered the court with his head down. He made no

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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

I heard a story this weekend that I just had to pass on to you. It illustrates something we have been talking about in an unusual way.

The police were called to an apartment. The report was that there had been a murder. Sure enough, when the police got to the apartment, there was a dead body.

In the kitchen.

Also in the kitchen was a gentleman (hereinafter, “Cookie”) who was cooking macaroni and cheese apparently nonplussed by the dead body on the floor.

The officers asked Cookie who had called the police. Cookie said that he had.

“Well, who is the guy on the floor?”

“Don’t know.”

“You don’t know the dead body lying in your kitchen is?”

Nope. Never seen him before.”

About a minute or so went by as the officers wondered what to do next. Meanwhile, Cookie continued to cook.

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About 14000 years ago, I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York. The last bureau in which I worked was the Homicide Bureau.

The first case that I brought to trial was a drug-deal-gone-sour matter in which the defendant was alleged to have stabbed the deceased. While there was no physical evidence or eye witnesses that pointed to him,  and he had no prior record, there was but one particular piece of evidence against him.

He made a statement.

To him, it must have seemed a good idea at the time. He thought he was exonerating himself, or at least, making the killing accidental. You see, he had used a very small knife during the incident. Who could know that such a little thing could actually kill a man?

Well, I suppose we all do….now.

The defense brought a motion to suppress the statement. The motion failed.

The jury trial ended with a relatively quick conviction.

Attorney Sam’s Take On The Reality Of Statements

As I mentioned yesterday, the issue of making statements is an interesting one. Many people still do not understand it. I often have clients who tell me that the police did not inform them of their Miranda Rights, and so the case must be “thrown out”.

Sorry, it is not that simple.

Continue reading

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