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Finn v. Commonwealth

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

August 13, 2019

JAMES FINN
v.
COMMONWEALTH.

          Heard: April 2, 2019.

         Civil action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk on January 8, 2019.

         The case was reported by Budd, J.

          Lisa S. Core for the petitioner.

          Catherine P. Sullivan, Assistant District Attorney (Christina P. Ronan, Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the Commonwealth.

          Benjamin H. Keehn & Rebecca Kiley, Committee for Public Counsel Services, for Committee for Public Counsel Services, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.

          GAZIANO, J.

         In this case, we consider whether G. L. c. 276, § 58A, allows the Commonwealth to seek a dangerousness hearing when a defendant appears before a Superior Court judge for arraignment pursuant to a postindictment summons, rather than an arrest warrant. We conclude that the language of the statute permits a Superior Court judge to conduct a dangerousness hearing upon a defendant's first appearance in that court, regardless of whether that appearance is pursuant to a summons or to an arrest warrant.[1]

         1. Background.

         In December of 2017, the defendant was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in the District Court with one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen, G. L. c. 265, § 13B; one count of open and gross lewdness, G. L. c. 272, § 16; and three counts of dissemination of obscene material to a minor, G. L. c. 272, § 28. The offense involved allegations concerning three children (two of whom were related) who lived in the defendant's apartment building. At arraignment, the Commonwealth moved for pretrial detention pursuant to G. L. c. 276, § 58A. After an evidentiary hearing, a District Court judge ordered that the defendant be held without bail. The judge then allowed the defendant's motion for reconsideration, and ordered that the defendant could be released with conditions, including global positioning system monitoring, a "no contact" order with the alleged victims and the witnesses, and a prohibition on alcohol and drug use. The defendant was released under these conditions in January 2018.

         Approximately three weeks later, in February 2018, a grand jury indicted the defendant on three counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen, and two counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor, for the same events underlying the December 2017 complaint. The prosecutor arranged with defense counsel to schedule the defendant's arraignment in the Superior Court; no new arrest warrant was issued. The defendant complied with a summons, and was arraigned in March 2018. At arraignment, the Commonwealth moved for pretrial detention pursuant to G. L. c. 276, § 58A. The defendant opposed the motion on the ground that the Commonwealth lacked the right to seek a dangerousness hearing in the Superior Court because the defendant had not been "'subject to arrest' or 'held under arrest' when he appeared for his arraignment, pursuant to [a] summons."

         In a written memorandum of decision, a Superior Court judge allowed the motion for pretrial detention, without prejudice.[2] The judge concluded that this court's interpretation of G. L. c. 276, § 58A, as set forth in Commonwealth v. Diggs, 475 Mass. 79, 80 (2016), allowed the Commonwealth to seek a dangerousness hearing in the Superior Court notwithstanding the defendant's release on conditions following his arraignment in the District Court. The judge considered and rejected the defendant's proffered conditions of release (including relocating to a motel), and found "that such conditions do not reasonably assure the safety of young children in the community."[3] See G. L. c. 276, ยง 58A (3). Approximately ten months later, the defendant filed an emergency ...


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