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Commonwealth v. Robinson (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-001-17)

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUFFOLK, ss. SUPERIOR COURT. 0084CR10975 ____________________ COMMONWEALTH v. JASON ROBINSON ____________________ FINDINGS OF FACT, RULINGS OF LAW, AND ORDER ALLOWING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL Defendant Jason Robinson was convicted of first degree murder in 2002. He now moves for a new trial on the grounds that: (i) his constitutional right to a public trial was violated because the court was closed during jury empanelment; (ii) there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction for felony-murder; (iii) newly discovered evidence suggests that the Commonwealth’s main witness did not testify truthfully; (iv) the Commonwealth withheld potentially exculpatory evidence; and (v) it is unconstitutional to sentence Robinson to life in prison with no possibility of parole because he was nineteen years old when the victim was killed and his brain was not yet fully developed. The Court conducted an evidentiary hearing regarding Robinson’s public trial claims and has scheduled a further evidentiary hearing regarding his claims about adolescent brain development. The Court concludes that it must ALLOW Robinson’s motion for a new trial and vacate his convictions for murder and unlawful possession of a firearm. As explained below, the Court finds that Robinson was denied his constitutional right to a public trial because the public was barred from the courtroom throughout the jury selection process. It also finds that Robinson did not acquiesce in this courtroom closure or waive his public trial right in any other way: neither Robinson nor his lawyer knew that the public was not allowed to observe the jury voir dire; defense counsel was not aware of any general practice of barring the public from jury selection; and this is Robinson’s first motion for a new trial and the first post-verdict opportunity Robinson has had to raise this claim of error. There is no merit to the Commonwealth’s assertion that any failure to object at trial to a courtroom closure waives the error, even if the defendant and his counsel did not know and had no reason to suspect that it was happening. The Court is therefore required – 2 – by law to vacate Robinson’s convictions and order a new trial without inquiring whether Robinson has demonstrated that the unlawful courtroom closure created any substantial risk or likelihood of a miscarriage of justice. 1. Procedural History. The dockets for this case and the transcripts from the trial of this matter indicate the following.1 Jason Robinson and codefendant Tanzerious Anderson were tried together in 2002. Robinson was indicted on one charge of murder in the first degree, two charges of armed robbery, and one charge of unlawful possession of a firearm. The case was tried before Judge Barbara Rouse. Trial of this case took […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - January 6, 2017 at 10:15 pm

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