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Irwin v. Commonwealth (Lawyers Weekly No. 101-131-13)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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‑11260   JOHN R. IRWIN  vs.  COMMONWEALTH.     Suffolk.     March 7, 2013.  ‑  July 15, 2013. Present:  Ireland, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Gants, Duffly, & Lenk, JJ.       Governmental Immunity.  Commonwealth, Claim against.  Practice, Civil, Proceeding against Commonwealth, Interlocutory appeal.  Erroneous Conviction.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on March 14, 2011.   Motions to dismiss and for partial judgment on the pleadings were heard by Raymond J. Brassard, J.   The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.     David Hartnagel, Assistant Attorney General, for the Commonwealth. Robert S. Sinsheimer (David Scott with him) for the plaintiff. Alex G. Philipson, pro se, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.       LENK, J.  In this case we consider whether the Commonwealth may pursue an interlocutory appeal, under the doctrine of present execution, of the determination that a plaintiff is an eligible claimant as defined under the erroneous convictions statute, G. L. c. 258D.[1]  We consider also whether a conviction that was overturned because the Commonwealth introduced evidence of the plaintiff’s prearrest silence as purportedly establishing consciousness of guilt was overturned “on grounds which tend to establish” his innocence, such that he is eligible to pursue his claim for compensation for an erroneous felony conviction pursuant to G. L. c. 258D, § 1 (B) (ii). Because the erroneous convictions statute provides only a limited waiver of the Commonwealth’s sovereign immunity, we conclude that the doctrine of present execution applies to claims brought under that statute, and thus that interlocutory appeal is appropriate.  While we conclude that “grounds which tend to establish” an individual’s innocence are not necessarily limited to the exclusion of exculpatory evidence at trial, we nonetheless conclude also that the plaintiff, John R. Irwin, is not eligible to pursue his compensation claim, because the grounds on which his conviction was reversed were not “probative of the proposition that [he] did not commit the crime.”  Guzman v. Commonwealth, 458 Mass. 354, 362 (2010) (Guzman), quoting Guzman v. Commonwealth, 74 Mass. App. Ct. 466, 477 (2009). Background and prior proceedings.  We summarize the facts based on the detailed discussion in the Appeals Court’s decision, see Commonwealth v. Irwin, 72 Mass. App. Ct. 643 (2008) (Irwin), reserving some facts for later discussion.  The incident resulting in the overturned conviction occurred […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - July 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

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