Posts tagged "Lawson"

Commonwealth v. Lawson (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-171-16)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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;   SJC-11996   COMMONWEALTH  vs.  RICHARD LAWSON.       Suffolk.     March 7, 2016. – October 28, 2016.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.[1]       Insanity.  Mental Health.  Evidence, Sanity, Inference, Presumptions and burden of proof, Argument by prosecutor.  Practice, Criminal, Presumptions and burden of proof, Required finding, Argument by prosecutor.       Complaint received and sworn to in the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department on March 12, 2014.   The case was heard by Michael J. Coyne, J.   The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.     Christopher DeMayo for the defendant. John P. Zanini, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.     GANTS, C.J.  The defendant, after being told by Boston police officers that he had an outstanding warrant, resisted arrest and assaulted the officers.  At a jury-waived trial in the Boston Municipal Court, the defendant offered a defense of lack of criminal responsibility, and called a forensic psychologist who described the defendant’s lengthy mental health history and opined that the defendant was not criminally responsible at the time of the offense.  The Commonwealth did not present expert evidence on the issue of criminal responsibility in rebuttal but rather relied on the circumstances surrounding the offense and cross-examination of the defendant’s expert to establish criminal responsibility.  The judge denied the defendant’s motion for required findings of not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility and found the defendant guilty on all charges. On appeal, the defendant contends that the judge must have relied on the so-called “presumption of sanity” because, without this presumption, the evidence did not support a finding of criminal responsibility beyond a reasonable doubt.  We conclude that the “presumption of sanity” is not truly a presumption but rather an inference that the defendant is probably criminally responsible because most people are criminally responsible for their acts.  Where a defendant proffers a defense of lack of criminal responsibility and there is some evidence that supports it, this inference, standing alone, cannot support a finding that a defendant is criminally responsible beyond a reasonable doubt.  Although the Commonwealth may not rely on “the presumption of sanity” to establish criminal responsibility, the Commonwealth need not offer expert testimony in every case and may rely instead on the circumstances of the offense and all […]


Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - October 29, 2016 at 3:50 am

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