Posts tagged "1006318"

Commonwealth v. Escobar (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-063-18)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-12430   COMMONWEALTH  vs.  JUSTINO ESCOBAR.     April 18, 2018.     Controlled Substances.  Constitutional Law, Plea, Conduct of government agents.  Due Process of Law, Plea, Disclosure of evidence.  Supreme Judicial Court, Superintendence of inferior courts.  Practice, Criminal, Plea, Conduct of government agents, Disclosure of evidence, New trial.  Evidence, Certificate of drug analysis, Disclosure of evidence.     The defendant, Justino Escobar, pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking in 2009 and was sentenced to a term of from eight to twelve years in State prison.  In July, 2015, he filed a motion for a new trial and a related motion to conduct postconviction discovery, seeking to have his conviction vacated pursuant to Commonwealth v. Ware, 471 Mass. 85 (2015), and Commonwealth v. Scott, 467 Mass. 336 (2014).  In his motions, Escobar argued that the Commonwealth had not fully investigated misconduct at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute (Hinton drug lab).[1]  In his view, the Inspector General’s investigation of the Hinton lab was incomplete because it did not inquire into whether any chemist other than Annie Dookhan had acted improperly.[2]   Escobar subsequently filed a motion to vacate his conviction and for the dismissal of the underlying charge as well as a motion for a so-called “Cotto order” pursuant to this court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Cotto, 471 Mass. 97 (2015).  After a hearing, in July, 2017, a judge in the Superior Court denied without prejudice the motions to vacate and for a Cotto order; allowed in part the motion for postconviction discovery, ordering limited discovery; and declined to rule on the motion for a new trial pending completion of that limited discovery.[3]  Escobar appealed.  We allowed his application for direct appellate review, and affirm.   On the basis of the record that was before her, the judge’s rulings were correct.  As she noted, Escobar’s core argument is that the chemist who analyzed the samples in his case, Della Saunders, had “testing productivity numbers” comparable to those of Dookhan.  In Escobar’s view, this raises the question whether Saunders, like Dookhan, also engaged in misconduct.  In light of his arguments, the judge determined that some limited postconviction discovery was warranted, and she thus allowed, in part, Escobar’s motion on this point.[4]  She also concluded, reasonably, that she could not fairly rule on Escobar’s motion for a new trial until that limited discovery […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - April 19, 2018 at 3:00 am

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