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Commonwealth v. Spencer

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

June 17, 2016

Clifford Spencer No. 134812


          Shannon Frison, Justice

         The defendant, Clifford Spencer (" Mr. Spencer"), is charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor in violation of G.L.c. 90, § 24, [1] operating a motor vehicle upon a public way without a license, and operation of a motor vehicle without a certified functioning ignition interlock device. Mr. Spencer was initially arraigned on the same crimes in Worcester District Court. Before the Court is Mr. Spencer's Motion to Adopt Rulings of the District Court.

         For the reasons that follow, Mr. Spencer's motion is ALLOWED .


         On November 2, 2015, Massachusetts State Trooper Joseph Conley (" Trooper Conley") arrested Mr. Spencer on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of liquor.[2] The Worcester District Court issued a complaint charging Mr. Spencer with operating under the influence of liquor, fifth offense, operating a motor vehicle without an ignition interlock device installed, a marked lanes violation, an inspection sticker violation, and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Mr. Spencer was arraigned in the Worcester District Court on November 3, 2015.

         The District Court proceedings lasted approximately three and a half months prior to Mr. Spencer's indictment and arraignment in the Worcester Superior Court on February 22, 2016. During this period in the District Court, two trial dates were scheduled and multiple rulings on evidentiary matters were made.

         At arraignment, Attorney Hillary Knight represented Mr. Spencer, and the Commonwealth filed a motion requesting a dangerousness hearing to determine whether Mr. Spencer should be held without bail pursuant to chapter 276 section 58A of the Massachusetts General Laws. On November 4, 2015, the case was reassigned by the Committee for Public Counsel Services to Attorney James Fanale. On November 5th the Commonwealth provided to defense counsel Mr. Spencer's board of probation record, an 11-page Massachusetts State Police document entitled " Administrative Journal, " and a two-page " Driver History."

         On November 16, 2015 the District Court (Ginsburg, J.) ordered that Mr. Spencer be held in custody without bail pursuant to the dangerousness statute. On that same day, a pretrial conference report filed with the court. The District Court continued case to December 15, 2015 for compliance and election and a hearing on the Commonwealth's Motion for Leave to Summon Medical Records prior to trial. The Commonwealth sought records pertaining to Mr. Spencer's visit to Mary Lane Hospital on the morning of his arrest, specifically mentioning records of blood alcohol analysis that it alleged existed.

         On December 13, 2015 the District Court (Mandell, J.) denied the Commonwealth's Rule 17 motion. The case was continued to January 15, 2016 for another compliance and election date. On January 15, 2016, the case was given a trial date of February 12, 2016.

         On February 11, 2016 the day before the first scheduled trial date, the Commonwealth informed defense counsel that it wished to advance the case and request a continuance of the trial date. Defense counsel did not agree to the case being brought forward nor to a continuance of trial. The prosecutor conceded that he did not provide discovery to defense counsel and had not even summonsed any witnesses for the trial scheduled to be held the very next day.

         Subsequently, the Commonwealth had the case advanced before the District Court (Despotopulos, J.). The District Court denied the Commonwealth's motion to continue trial. When the court inquired as to Trooper Conley's availability despite having not been summonsed, the Commonwealth represented that Trooper Conley would not be able to be at the Worcester District Court on the date of trial as he lived several hours away. The Commonwealth was unable to provide a date when Trooper Conley would next be available. Further, while the Commonwealth cited its continued desire for medical records and blood tests of Mr. Spencer, it offered no answer to the District Court's inquiries as to what information it had that suggested blood was actually taken from the defendant. When asked specifically what actions the prosecutor had taken since December 15, 2015 to try again to access these medical records, the prosecutor mentioned only that he had met with another prosecutor who reviewed his affidavit.

         On the trial date of February 12, 2016, defense answered ready for trial. The Commonwealth answered not ready and requested a continuance again. The defense objected to that request. During the first call of the case, the prosecutor reported that he was not ready for trial because he was awaiting results of blood tests that were performed on Mr. Spencer. However, the Commonwealth had no blood in its custody and control to be tested and had taken no further action requesting any medical records since its Rule 17 motion was denied two months prior. Trooper Conley did not appear for trial, nor had he even been summonsed. Later that same morning and upon second call, the defense answered ready for trial again. The Commonwealth asked for a continuance again, to which the defense objected. The prosecutor stated to the District Court that he had conferred with others in the District Attorney's Office and that they had determined that this case would be indicted and proceed in Worcester Superior Court. The defendant filed his Motion to Exclude Evidence for Failure to Provide Discovery, which asked that all discovery not yet provided to defense counsel be excluded from trial. The District Court allowed that motion to exclude evidence (LoConto, J.), prohibiting the Commonwealth from introducing anything other than the items provided on November 5, 2015. Among the evidence ordered excluded at trial were all prior certified convictions of Mr. Spencer, thus effectively preventing Commonwealth from proving the subsequent offense portion of the operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor indictment, fifth offense. Also ordered excluded were any documents from the Registry of Motor Vehicles other than the two-page Driver History already provided the defendant. That ruling effectively prevented the Commonwealth from proving two indictments--operating a motor vehicle without an ignition interlock device and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Lastly, any medical records (which the Commonwealth still did not have, anyway) were also excluded.

         The District Court (LoConto, J.) told the Commonwealth that if the case was not indicted by the next trial date, then it would be dismissed in the District Court. The court asked defense counsel for trial date, and defense counsel requested February 16, 2016. The Commonwealth stated that it could not proceed to trial on that date. The court inquired why, and the prosecutor said that he was obligated to try another Worcester District Court case in which the defendant was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, fifth offense. Due to those obligations, the prosecutor stated he was unable to handle trial in this matter on the requested date. After some discussion about the prosecutor's other matters, the District Court set a second trial date of February 18, 2016.

         On February 18, 2016--the second scheduled trial date--the defense answered ready for trial again. This time the assigned prosecutor's supervisor answered not ready for trial on behalf of the Commonwealth and requested a continuance again. In making its request, the Commonwealth stated that on February 16, 2016 Trooper Conley had in fact come to the Worcester Courthouse and testified before the grand jury and on this case. That was the same day that the Commonwealth had indicated to the District Court that it would be unable to try its case. The Commonwealth also apprised the District Court that it used the grand jury procedure to subpoena Mr. Spencer's medical records from the hospital. These were the same records sought in its failed Rule 17 ...

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