Drug Trafficking Conviction Reversed Where Defendant Did Not Sign Written Waiver Of Jury Trial

After a jury waived trial the defendant was convicted of two counts of cocaine trafficking in the Superior Court.  He appealed his conviction claiming that his waiver of his right to a jury trial was not effective in that he never signed the waiver form. 

G.L. c. 263 sec. 6 provides criminal defendants with the right to have their case heard by a judge or a jury.  The exception applies to capital cases and to cases in which there are co-defendants and one of the co-defendants elects to proceed before a jury.  Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 19(a) reflects this rule as well.  In 2006 the Supreme Judicial Court reviewed this issue and concluded that absence of the written waiver is fatal to the conviction.  See Commonwealth v. Osborne, 445 Mass. 776 (2006).  The Court in Osborne reasoned that G.L. c. 263 sec. 6 was designed to provide a record that persons waiving their constitutional right to a trial by jury were doing so in an informed manner.  It was further held that adhering to the letter of the statute would protect the defendant from falsely or accidentally waiving his or her constitutional rights. 

The decision of whether or not to proceed with a jury or a judge is not to be taken likely.  There are times when an objective determination of guilt or innocense by a jury is unlikely.  This can be the function of an unsympathetic defendant or a repugnant accusation.  In these situations your choice of lawyers is critical.  A lawyer’s familliarity with the judges is essential to the determination of whether to have your case tried with or without a jury. 

Every lawyer in our office has over 20 year experience with criminal law in Massachusetts.  We are prepared to handle any type of criminal case.  We have successfully defended people accused of committing drug trafficking crimes.  Call our office now to discuss your case. 

Related Web Resources:

Boston, Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The Cocaine Trafficking  statute in Massachusetts is G.L. c. 94C sec. 32E.