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Cepeda v. Commonwealth (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-007-18)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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-12387   RONALDO CEPEDA  vs.  COMMONWEALTH.     January 12, 2018.     Supreme Judicial Court, Superintendence of inferior courts.  Practice, Criminal, Indictment, Dismissal.  Youthful Offender Act.     The petitioner, Ronaldo Cepeda, appeals from a judgment of a single justice of this court denying his petition pursuant to G. L. c. 211, § 3.  We affirm.   Cepeda has been indicted for murder in the second degree, stemming from an incident that occurred on October 22, 2015.  Cepeda was sixteen years old at the time.  He moved to dismiss the indictment on the basis that “the Commonwealth failed to present material exculpatory and mitigating evidence to the grand jury, and that the grand jury was not properly instructed regarding the impact of a developing brain on threat response and decision making of a juvenile.”  A judge in the Superior Court denied the motion.  Cepeda then filed his G. L. c. 211, § 3, petition in the county court.   In his petition, he argued, among other things, that, following this court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Walczak, 463 Mass. 808 (2012), when the Commonwealth seeks to indict a juvenile the grand jury must be instructed on the basic differences between juvenile and adult brains.  In the Walczak case, the court concluded that   “where the Commonwealth seeks to indict a juvenile for murder and where there is substantial evidence of mitigating circumstances or defenses (other than lack of criminal responsibility) presented to the grand jury, the prosecutor shall instruct the grand jury on the elements of murder and on the significance of mitigating circumstances and defenses.”   Id. at 810.  In Cepeda’s view, the required instructions will only be effective if the grand jury are also instructed on juvenile brain development.  Essentially, his concern lies with the difference between an indictment for murder, pursuant to which the Commonwealth would proceed against him as an adult in the Superior Court, and an indictment for manslaughter, pursuant to which the Commonwealth would proceed against him in the Juvenile Court.  In other words, if the grand jury were presented with information related to juvenile brain development, they would be better able to assess whether to indict the defendant as an adult (for murder) or as a juvenile (for manslaughter).   The single justice denied the petition without a hearing, and the case is now before us pursuant […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - January 12, 2018 at 11:20 pm

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