Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Commonwealth v. Grant G.

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

December 17, 2019

COMMONWEALTH
v.
GRANT G., a juvenile.[1]

          Heard: March 27, 2019.

          Complaints received and sworn to in the Suffolk County Division of the Juvenile Court Department on October 6 and 14, 2014. A proceeding for revocation of probation was heard by Peter M. Coyne, J.

          Benjamin L. Falkner for the juvenile.

          Houston Armstrong, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Rubin, Milkey, & McDonough, JJ.

          McDONOUGH, J.

         The juvenile appeals from a judge's order revoking his probation, arguing that the judge erroneously based his decision exclusively on unreliable hearsay testimony from a Department of Children and Families (DCF) case worker. We agree and reverse.

         Background.

         We recite the facts based on the testimony and documentary evidence from the probation violation hearing. On August 17, 2016, the juvenile pleaded delinquent to kidnapping and armed robbery in the Juvenile Court. On the same day, in a separate case, the juvenile also pleaded delinquent to larceny of a credit card and credit card fraud over $250. On all four charges, the judge sentenced the juvenile to remain in the custody of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) until his eighteenth birthday, but suspended the sentence and placed the juvenile on probation until his eighteenth birthday. The conditions of the probation included, among other things, obeying a curfew as set by "DCF placement" and "comply[ing] with all DCF services and all placements."

         On June 19, 2017, a probation violation notice (violation notice) issued alleging that the juvenile violated his probation by committing a new criminal offense, receiving a stolen motor vehicle.[2] The probation department thereafter amended the violation notice, alleging that the juvenile violated two additional probation conditions: complying with and successfully completing his residential placement program at Journey Home (program). Specifically, the violation notice alleged that the juvenile was "AWOL" from the program on various specified dates.[3]

         At the October 2, 2017, probation revocation hearing, the Commonwealth presented the testimony of one witness, the juvenile's DCF case worker.[4] The case worker testified that he met with the program director, who told him that the juvenile "ha[d] broken all the rules and . . . wasn't cooperating with DCF and . . . ha[d] been AWOL from the program several times." The case worker testified that he understood "AWOL" to mean "the child is not at the program and his whereabouts are. . . . unknown or he. . . . hasn't called the program to report where he is." Specifically, the case worker testified that the program director told him that the juvenile was given a "day pass" that permitted the juvenile to visit his uncle "just for a day and . . . return to the program the same day," but the juvenile "didn't return to . . . the program . . . for several days." The case worker further testified that the juvenile was not attending school consistently, had "unauthorized contact with his mother," and "had a substance abuse issue at the program." Based on those purported violations of the program rules, the case worker testified that it was decided to remove the juvenile from the program and to "close out [his] bed."

         Nevertheless, on cross-examination, the case worker conceded that he never read the program rules or regulations and did not know how the program defined "AWOL." He also conceded that he did not know the dates that the juvenile was "AWOL," or that on certain occasions program staff had apparently allowed the juvenile to stay with his uncle overnight after speaking with the juvenile and determining, with DCF's consent, that the juvenile was safe and would return the following day.[5] The case worker also admitted that he was not assigned to the juvenile's case when the alleged violations occurred, and that his testimony was based exclusively on his conversations with the program director and notes in the juvenile's DCF case file.

         The judge ultimately found that the juvenile violated the conditions of his probation by "fail[ing] to comply with . . . and . . . being AWOL from the program," and revoked his probation, committing him DYS custody until his eighteenth birthday. The judge stated that "[p]robation ha[d] met its burden" based on "the witness [being] credible in his testimony about the [juvenile's] compliance with the [program] . . . and base[d] further upon [the witness's] statements of . . . what he was informed by the program director that the [juvenile] had been AWOL from the program and non-compliant in the program." According to the probation violation finding and disposition form, the judge found that the case worker's hearsay testimony was substantially reliable because it was "provided by a disinterested witness," "provided under circumstances that support the veracity of the source," "factually detailed," and "internally consistent."[6]

         Discussion.

         The Commonwealth must prove any "violation of probation by a preponderance of the evidence." Commonwealth v. Bukin, 467 Mass. 516, 520 (2014) . The determination that a probation violation occurred "lies within the discretion of the hearing judge," Id., who must assess the weight of the evidence against the probationer. Id. at 521. Accordingly, we review an order revoking probation for an abuse of discretion. Id. at 519-520. We determine "whether the record discloses sufficient reliable evidence to warrant the findings by the judge that [the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.