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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Affirms Trial Judge’s Suppression Of Evidence Unlawfully Seized

Earlier today the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its opinion in Commonwealth v. Carr.pdf affirming the trial judge’s suppression of evidence seized unlawfully. The facts of the case are as follows. On Valentine’s Day, 2007 a Boston College police sergeant received a call from a residential director (RD) of a dormitory who had information from students that a dorm resident possibly possessed a weapon. The RD brought the students to the campus police. The students stated that the defendant had been bullying students and bragged about having a knife. An anonymous student reported seeing the butt of a gun in the defendant’s room. The student stated that the gun might have been a toy. Armed with this information campus police went to the defendant’s room. They knocked on the door and identified themselves. About a half minute later the door was opened. There were three men in the room. An individual who denied living in the room was asked to leave. The officer then inquired about the gun. One of the defendants admitted to previously having a fake gun and throwing it away. He was then read his rights and asked where the gun was. He replied that it was under the bed. There, the officers found a replica gun. With further prompting and prodding from the police the other defendant produced a knife. Officers found another knife and a martial arts weapon also. The police then asked the defendants to sign a Miranda waiver form and a consent to search form. Both signed the former. Neither signed the latter. The officers then conducted a search and found drugs and drug related paraphernalia. The trial judge allowed the defendants’ Motion to Suppress. The Appeals Court reversed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial judge’s rulings holding as follows:

The district attorney never established that the defendants consented to the search. One of the officers testifying agreed to that during cross-examination. He backtracked on re-direct by testifying that the defendants gave verbal consent to search. The judge found this to effect his credibility. The evidence as to consent was equivocal in the judge’s opinion and not sufficient to sustain the search. The trial judge also held that even if the defendants had consented the consent was not made voluntarily. She found that the campus police actions of immediately demanding the defendant’s identities, ordering the person who did not live in the room to leave, blocking the doorway, showing distrust for the defendants and ordering rather than requesting to search undercut the voluntariness requirement of consent.

This case is another example of what can happen when you hire an experienced lawyer. The lawyers in this case did a fantastic job for the defendants. They were able to show the trial judge that the defendants’ constitutional rights were violated.