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Santana v. Commonwealth (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-165-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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   14-P-923                                        Appeals Court   ANGEL SANTANA  vs.  COMMONWEALTH. No. 14-P-923. Essex.     September 2, 2015. – October 19, 2015.   Present:  Berry, Grainger, & Sullivan, JJ.     Erroneous Conviction.  Commonwealth, Claim against.  Evidence, Constructive possession.  Practice, Civil, Proceeding against Commonwealth, Judgment on the pleadings, Interlocutory appeal.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on January 19, 2012.   The case was heard by Douglas H. Wilkins, J., on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and a motion for reconsideration was considered by him.     Jeffrey T. Collins, Assistant Attorney General, for the Commonwealth. John J. Hightower for the plaintiff.      SULLIVAN, J.  After a jury trial in Superior Court, Angel Santana was convicted of trafficking cocaine in the amount of fourteen to less than twenty-eight grams, in violation of G. L. c. 94C, § 32E(b), and trafficking in cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school zone, in violation of G. L. c. 94C, § 32J.  This court vacated the judgments, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to establish that Santana constructively possessed the cocaine.[1]  Santana subsequently filed a complaint pursuant to G. L. c. 258D, the erroneous conviction statute.  After discovery, the Commonwealth moved for judgment on the pleadings, contending that Santana failed to meet the threshold requirement of eligibility to pursue relief under the erroneous conviction statute.  In a comprehensive and well-reasoned memorandum, the motion judge denied the motion, concluding that the lack of evidence of constructive possession tended to establish actual innocence of the underlying crime, and that Santana was therefore eligible for relief under the statute.[2]  The Commonwealth appeals from the motion judge’s order denying its motion for reconsideration under the doctrine of present execution.[3]  See Irwin v. Commonwealth, 465 Mass. 834, 835 (2013).  We affirm. Discussion.  The class of claimants eligible for relief under the erroneous conviction statute includes only those “who have been granted judicial relief by a state court of competent jurisdiction, on grounds which tend to establish the innocence of the individual.”  G. L. c. 258D, § 1(B)(ii), inserted by St. 2004, c. 444, § 1.  If this threshold requirement is met, the claimant must then “establish at trial, by clear and convincing evidence, that he or she did not commit the offense charged.”  Renaud v. Commonwealth, 471 Mass. 315, 317-318 (2015) (holding that insufficient evidence alone may be a ground for a wrongful conviction complaint, when considered in the context of […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - October 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm

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