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  • 7/28/2019 0722 Sjc Ruling


    7/22/13 Westlaw Result

    weblinks.westlaw.com/result/default.aspx?action=Search&cnt=DOC&db=MA-ORSLIP&eq=search&fmqv=c&fn=_top&method=TNC&mt=Westlaw&n=1&orig in


    NOTICE: The slip opinions and orders posted on this Web site are subject to formal revision and aresuperseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports. This preliminary materialwill be removed from the Web s ite once the advance sheets of the Official Reports are published. If youfind a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme JudicialCourt, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us

    COMMONWEALTH vs. Shubar CHARLES. vs.vs.


    Hector Milette.

    District Attorney For The Eastern District

    Superior Court Department of the Trial Court.

    SJC-11408, SJC-11409, SJC-11410.

    Suffolk. May 9, 2013. - July 22, 2013.

    Controlled Substances. Superior Court, Special magistrate. Practice, Criminal, Postconviction relief, Executionof sentence, Sentence, Plea. Supreme Judicial Court, Superintendence of inferior courts.

    CIVIL ACTIONS commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on February 14,February 21, and March 1, 2013. The cases were reported by Botsford, J.

    Ronald DeRosa, Assistant District Attorney (Elin H. Gaydon, Assistant District Attorney, with him) for theCommonwealth & another.

    Beth Eisenberg, Committee for Public Counse l Services (Matthew R. Segalwith her) for Shubar Charles.

    Matthew R. Segal(Emma A. Anderson, of New York, with him) for Hector Milette.

    Jennifer Grace Miller, Assistant Attorney General, for Superior Court Department of the Trial Court.

    Joel Z. Eigerman for Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action & others.

    C. Samuel Sutter, District Attorney, & Eva Zelnick, Assistant District Attorney, for District Attorney for theBristol District.

    Ryan Schiff& Benjamin H. Keehn, Committee for Public Counsel Services, & Alex G. Philipson for Committeefor Public Counsel Services & another.

    Present: Ireland, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Gants, Duffly, & Lenk, JJ.

    SPINA, J.

    In June, 2011, allegations of misconduct at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in JamaicaPlain (Hinton drug lab) surfaced regarding work performed by Annie Dookhan, a chemist who had beenemployed in the forensic drug laboratory since November, 2003. Following an internal review, theDepartment of Public Health launched a formal investigation of the matter in December, 2011. Theinvestigation concluded that "Dookhan failed to follow [Hinton drug l]ab protocols for the transfer anddocumentation of samples for testing, and subsequently created a false record of said transfers." Afterbeing placed on paid administrative leave, Dookhan res igned from her position, effective March 9, 2012. Amore extensive investigation of the Hinton drug lab was initiated in August, 2012, by the State police. As aresult of this investigation, it has been alleged that, among other things, Dookhan deliberately and

  • 7/28/2019 0722 Sjc Ruling


    7/22/13 Westlaw Result

    weblinks.westlaw.com/result/default.aspx?action=Search&cnt=DOC&db=MA-ORSLIP&eq=search&fmqv=c&fn=_top&method=TNC&mt=Westlaw&n=1&orig in 2

    repeatedly falsified drug testing results, tampered w ith evidence, and forged signatures on documents.Although the full scope of Dookhan's purported misconduct is not yet known, it has been estimatedconservatively that, during her tenure, Dookhan worked on at least 34,000 cases. The investigation ofmisconduct at the Hinton drug lab remains ongoing.

    The three cases now before us concern the validity of certain procedures that have been adopted by theSuperior Court Department of the Trial Court (Superior Court) to handle postconviction matters in criminalcases where a defendant has been convicted of a drug offense, and the drugs at issue were analyzed atthe Hinton drug lab. In October, 2012, the Chief Justice of the Superior Court assigned specific judges inseven counties to preside over special "drug lab sessions" that would deal with these postconvictionmatters. The first round of hearings focused on incarcerated defendants who had filed motions to stay theexecution of their sentences in cases where the lead offense was a violation of the Controlled SubstancesAct, G.L. c. 94C, and Dookhan was the primary or confirmatory chemist. [FN1] From October 15 toNovember 28, the judges presiding over the drug lab sessions he ld 589 hearings, placing an enormousburden on the Superior Court.

    On November 9, 2012, this court issued an order to facilitate the expeditious handling of matters relatingto the alleged misconduct at the Hinton drug lab. The order provided, in relevant part:

    "[A] Chief Justice of a Trial Court Department may assign for all purposes, including disposition, any postconviction motion in which a party seeks relief based on alleged misconduct at the Hinton [drug lab] to anyjudge of that Trial Court Department. The assigned judge may reass ign the motion to the original trialjudge where the interests of justice require."

    On November 26, 2012, in accordance with the provisions of Mass. R.Crim. P. 47, 378 Mass. 923 (1979),[FN2] the Chief Justice of the Superior Court appointed five retired Superior Court judges as "SpecialJudicial Magistrate[s] of the Superior Court, to preside over criminal proceedings in connection with casesrelating to the [Hinton drug lab]." These special magistrates were assigned to six counties, and the ChiefJustice of the Superior Court issued to each one an "Order of Assignment" de lineating his or her authorityand responsibilities. It provides, in part:

    "[T]he Special Judicial Magistrate shall have the powers, duties, and authority to preside at arraignments,to set bail, to assign counsel, to supervise pretrial conferences, and to mark up motions for hearing. TheSpecial Judicial Magistrate sha ll also have the power and authority to conduct hearings on post convictionmotions, to issue orders regarding discovery, and other matters, and to make proposed findings andrulings to the Regional Administrative Justice.... Further, the Special Judicial Magistrate shall perform suchother duties as may be authorized by order of the Superior Court."

    As of March 6, 2013, the special magistrates had conducted more than 900 hearings, a substantialnumber of which pertained to defendants' motions to stay the execution of their sentences. [FN3]

    The three present cases originated in Essex County. Each arose as a consequence of the implementationof the procedures established by the Chief Justice of the Superior Court for handling postconvictionmatters in the special drug lab sess ions. Following proceedings in the Superior Court with regard to eachcase, which will be discussed in greater depth in subsequent portions of this opinion, the Commonwealthfiled petitions in the county court pursuant to G.L. c. 211, 3, challenging those procedures. On March 13,2013, a single justice held a hearing on the Commonwealth's petitions. She then reserved and reportedthree questions to the full bench:

    "1. Does a special magistrate appointed by the Chief Justice of the Superior Court pursuant to Mass.R.Crim. P. 47, or a judge of the Superior Court, have the authority to allow a defendant's motion to stay

    execution of his sentence, then be ing served, pending disposition of the defendant's motion for a newtrial?

    "2. Does a special magistrate have the authority to reconsider and a llow a motion to stay execution of acriminal defendant's sentence where a judge of the Superior Court has previously denied a motion to s tayexecution filed by the same defendant?

    "3. (a) Is it appropriate for this court to answer the question set forth in 3(b) below, regarding the validityof plea colloquies conducted by special magistrates, where, under the terms of the protocol established bythe Superior Court, neither side can be required to submit over its objection to a plea colloquy conductedby a special magistrate, and where, to date, because of the Commonwealth's objections, all colloquies inEssex County have been conducted by judges and not by special magistrates?

    "(b) If the court answers the question in 3(a) in the affirmative, does such a special magistrate have the

  • 7/28/2019 0722 Sjc Ruling


    7/22/13 Westlaw Result

    weblinks.westlaw.com/result/default.aspx?action=Search&cnt=DOC&db=MA-ORSLIP&eq=search&fmqv=c&fn=_top&method=TNC&mt=Westlaw&n=1&orig in

    authority under Mass. R.Crim. P. 47 to conduct a