Amicus Brief: Indigent Defense Crisis

Today, Attorney Wood and a team of lawyers filed an amicus brief on behalf of MACDL, Hampden Lawyers for Justice and the ACLU in Carrasquillo v. Hampden County District Court, an appeal pending before the SJC and scheduled to be argued in November.

In this case, CPCS is challenging the order of the Hampden County District Court requiring Hampden County staff public defenders to accept all appointments in the Springfield District Court for which bar advocates could not be found. The appeal is a vehicle to discuss the growing shortage of bar advocates across the Commonwealth. Like CPCS, MACDL et al. assert that the source of the problem is the Legislature's failure to increase rates paid to bar advocates over the past 15 years since the SJC instructed the Legislature to address this issue in its 2005 decision, Lavallee. Unlike CPCS, MACDL et al. urge the Court to increase rates on its own authority. Because the legislature has failed to act and that failure is now causing a breakdown in the criminal justice system, MACDL et al. argue that the only solution to this constitutional crisis is an increase in rates paid to bar advocates and the SJC has the authority to order this increase effective immediately.

The legal team is:

- Chauncey Wood: MACDL amicus director

- Matt Segal: ACLUM Legal Director

- Jessica Lewis: ACLUM staff attorney

- Robert McDonnell: Partner, Morgan Lewis

- Timothy Burke:- Partner, Morgan Lewis

- Matthew Bohenek: associate, Morgan Lewis

- David Hoose: Hampden President, Lawyers for Justice

Amicus Brief: Right to Alternative to Police Impounding Your Vehicle

On October 17, Attorney Wood co-authored an amicus brief on behalf MACDL and the ACLU in a Fourth Amendment case. The brief argues that police must notify people that they may propose an alternative to impoundment of their vehicle before the police may impound it. This is critical because impoundment inevitably leads to an invasive inventory search and because impoundment is an unreasonable financial burden on poor people if there is reasonable alternative to impoundment.

Amicus Brief: Defendant Has Right to Know His Attorney Was Not Appointed, Not Paid

On October 15, Attorney Wood filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of the Cato Institute in Commonwealth v. Francis. In this case, trial counsel volunteered to serve as Mr. Francis's pro bono counsel without telling Mr. Francis that he was not being paid because the trial judge refused to appoint trial counsel as not qualified to handle murder cases. We argue that depriving Mr. Francis of this crucial information was a violation the right to choice of counsel and resulted in structural error requiring automatic reversal.

Fast Action Secures New Trial and Preserves Professional License

In August 2019, Attorney Wood secured the rapid reversal of a criminal conviction after just four months for a client who was working in the U.S. in a medical profession on a H1B visa and was fired as a result of the charge. This victory allows the client to remain in the U.S., maintain his license, and regain professional employment.

GPS Removed for Client Awaiting Retrial on Murder Charges

On September 16, 2019, Attorney Wood convinced the Hampden Superior Court to remove a GPS monitoring bracelet for his client “Omar,” while the District Attorney decides whether or not to retry him for a murder that he adamantly denies. In April 2019, Attorney Wood secured a reversal of Omar's conviction and his immediate release after 19 years in prison.

Associate Attorney Position

Associate attorney position available with Wood & Nathanson, LLP a small law firm concentrating on criminal defense. Located in downtown Boston, Wood & Nathanson’s primary focus is appellate criminal defense. Our practice also includes significant trial litigation. Our firm practices in the Massachusetts state and federal courts. A large portion of our practice involves the defense of homicide charges.

Attorney Post in the Boston Globe on Sonja Farak / Hinton Scandal

Attorney Christopher Post was quoted in today's Boston Globe regarding the Hinton Drug Lab scandal. The Inspector General essentially ignored or underplayed the misconduct of Sonja Farak while she was at Hinton, but she appears to have been worse than Annie Dookhan.

“Attorney Christoper Post ... said the number of drugs she analyzed should have been a red flag for the inspector general...she analyzed more drugs than anyone in the history of the lab 'It’s hard to see how they couldn’t have spotted it.'”

Ten Year Reduction of "Habitual Offender" Sentence

Recently, Attorney Jellison successfully shortened a client's cumulative 30 year sentence by ten years, moving his first parole date up by five years. This client was convicted of two non-violent property-based crimes in the space of six months. Middlesex County tried those cases separately and sought “habitual offender” indictments in both cases. The second trial judge ran the client's mandatory maximum sentences consecutively, leading to a cumulative 30 year sentence. Without the habitual offender statute, guidelines would suggest no more than 6 years of incarceration. Three strikes laws are draconian, and should be examined and abandoned in Massachusetts. It is all too easy for black and brown people who have struggled with poverty and addiction over a lifetime to qualify for devastating and disproportionate sentences. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court provided all relief possible after reviewing the client's offense, age, and current medical condition.

Defendant Never Told of Negative Drug Testing

Atty. Christopher Post also won a new trial and then dismissal for a defendant who was never told that the “drugs” he was convicted of possessing tested negative at the Hinton lab. Police had stopped him, tackled him, and claimed they found crack cocaine. He was subsequently charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine in a school zone. He pleaded guilty quickly to avoid the mandatory minimum school zone charge. While he was serving his sentence, testing at Hinton proved the substance was not drugs, just as he had claimed, but no one ever told him and continued serving his sentence. After the Dookhan and Farak scandals, Atty. Post helped identify similarly situated individuals while at the C.P.C.S. Drug Lab Crisis Litigation Unit. It appears there may be more than 300 similarly situated defendants.

Drug Lab Fallout Continues

The Massachusetts drug lab scandal is by no means over. None of the prior cases decided by the SJC dealt with the fact that disgraced chemist Sonja Farak worked at the Boston-area Hinton drug lab before she was caught stealing drugs and faking results at the Amherst drug lab. Atty. Christopher Post recently won a new trial and dismissal of charges where he showed that Farak’s volume of testing at Hinton at times surpassed Annie Dookhan’s, who was only able to achieve such results through fraud. He also showed that Farak made statements that suggest drug use while she was at the Hinton lab.

A Win Against the Jailing of Children

On May 16, 2018, the Supreme Judicial Court adopted the arguments of Attorney Jellison in Commonwealth v. Lazlo L., ruling that continued prosecution of eleven year old children is repugnant to the purposes of the legislature in enacting criminal justice reforms limiting such prosecutions. The prosecution of children is not just cruel, it is empirically bad policy. The prosecution of children has been demonstrated to increase the likelihood of later criminal justice involvement. Further, children this young are precisely those people who are most likely to mature and change. Children should be treated as children.

Amicus Brief: Not Guilty of Accessory to Murder

On May 1, 2019, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered a not guilty verdict for a defendant charged with accessory to murder. On behalf of MACDL and CPCS, Attorney Jellison authored an amicus brief in support of the defendant who was represented by Attorney Jin Ho King of MRDK Law. The witness refused give a phone number, which he had a right to do, and gave evasive answers. He was just scared and wanted to distance himself. The SJC adopted our argument that he didn't provide the killer with a defense or mislead police.

DNA Testing for People on Sex Offender Registry

Attorney Shih just filed a brief on behalf of the Boston Bar Association arguing that people required to register as sex offenders should be permitted to ask for DNA testing to prove their innocence. SORB registration is a significant restraint on liberty and gives them standing to request testing. Read the brief here.

Title IX Proceedings Avoided

In February 2019, thanks to Attorney Wood's quick intervention, a Boston area university agreed to lift a temporary suspension and not to initiate Title IX proceedings against his client, a college senior in the U.S. on a student visa who had been charged with a misdemeanor in a local court. This decision allows the client to graduate on time.

Drug "Expert" Excluded, Drug Charges Dismissed

In January 2019, Attorney Wood, assisted by Attorney Jellison, successfully convinced a trial court to dismiss felony drug distribution charges against a client prior to trial by proving that the Commonwealth had allowed the destruction of relevant evidence and that the Commonwealth's so-called "drug expert" was not qualified to given an opinion and therefore his testimony would be excluded.

New Blog Post on Michelle Carter Decision

Wood & Nathanson’s Eva Jellison filed an amicus brief on behalf of CPCS and MACDL in the Michelle Carter “manslaughter by texting” case. In it, she argued for the application of a reasonable juvenile standard whenever the criminal law imposes a “reasonable person” standard on juveniles. The SJC avoided deciding the question. Read our analysis here in our new blog post.