Soon after a summertime recess, the Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s optimum court, will all over again listen to scenarios that could improve the lawful landscape in the commonwealth. GBH News lawful analyst and Northeastern University legislation professor Daniel Medwed joined Early morning Edition hosts Paris Alston and Jeremy Siegel to talk about some cases that caught his eye: A potent politician who needed to turn out to be a lobbyist when he received out of federal jail and a prosecutor whose impassioned closing arguments in a murder demo could have absent as well significantly. This transcript has been frivolously edited.
Jeremy Siegel: September is a busy thirty day period for the SJC. Daniel, explain to us about some of the scenarios that have caught your eye.
Daniel Medwed: September is when issues seriously warmth up at the John Adams courthouse in downtown Boston mainly because the SJC resumes listening to oral arguments in appeals after a fairly lengthy summer split. So a pair of scenarios caught my eye from this month’s calendar, most notably an appeal involving a disgraced former Massachusetts speaker of the Home: Sal DiMasi. DiMasi resigned beneath a cloud of corruption allegations and in 2011, he was convicted of various federal crimes related to an alleged pay for play scheme the place he received $65,000 in trade for steering huge quantities, thousands and thousands of dollars in condition contracts, to a Burlington application company.
So nine many years later, in 2020, DiMasi was out of jail, he was out on compassionate launch mainly because of his well being, and he sought to sign-up to turn into a point out lobbyist. So the situation in this circumstance, the legal challenge, is when, if ever could an individual who was convicted of a federal crime sign-up as a point out lobbyist on Beacon Hill?
Paris Alston: Is there a law about that, Daniel? I imply, it appears to be like this is some thing that would have arrive up just before.
Medwed: Unquestionably. So on the a single hand, certainly, there is a regulation on the textbooks that specifies that a person convicted of a state criminal offense has to wait 10 a long time prior to registering as a lobbyist. And our secretary of condition, William Galvin, interpreted that that legislation to bar DiMasi from registering due to the fact he was just one yr too early. He experienced to wait another yr simply because he is only been out 9 yrs. On the other hand, the legislation specifies only point out crimes, and you will find no reference at all to federal crimes. So DiMasi said, Hey, I was convicted of a federal crime, not a condition crime. This 10-calendar year barrier should not utilize to me. And he certain a point out court decide that he was right.
Galvin then appealed it to the SJC, and which is in which we are. So the authorized challenge in the SJC is a single that a good deal of attorneys connect with a make a difference of statutory interpretation. The point that a law is silent, does that signify rejection, that a state regulation only refers to state crimes? Does that signify by definition it was excluding federal crimes? Or should silence mean the acceptance of typical ideas? The policy purpose driving this legislation was to basically hold off folks in registering a condition lobbyists following they’ve been convicted. Would not that very same policy implement, irrespective of no matter if it was a condition or a federal criminal offense? In other text, should really we observe the letter of the legislation, a narrow check out of it, or probably the spirit of the law, sort of a broader interpretation?
“The authorized situation in the SJC is 1 that a good deal of lawyers connect with a issue of statutory interpretation. The reality that a legislation is silent, does that indicate rejection?”
-GBH Information Authorized ANALYST DANIEL MEDWED
Siegel: This scenario is form of interesting simply because it feels like a new rule practically could come out of it in a way. Any views on how this will transform out?
Medwed: That’s an exciting dilemma, I consider. My hunch is that the SJC will go in favor of the slender interpretation, the stringent variation of the legislation, and here’s why. So for a person issue, the term ‘crimes’ in the legislation didn’t have to be modified by anything at all at all. It could have just been anyone who was convicted of a crime has to hold out 10 many years to register as a lobbyist. The point that the legislature involved the phrase ‘state’ in advance of ‘crime’ is a very sturdy sign of its intent to limit this to just point out crimes. For a different matter, judges are ordinarily not in the organization of encroaching on the turf of lawmakers and reading a word into a statute that would not exist.
There is a principle in legislation, specifically in prison legislation, known as the rule of lenity, or leniency, if the law is ambiguous or unclear, courts are inclined to interpret it in a way that will help the defendant, that assists personal liberty passions. So I believe DiMasi is possibly going to gain in the finish.
Alston: But either way, it won’t have an effect on him, right? Due to the fact it really is been much more than 10 a long time since he was federally convicted, and presumably, he would now be suitable to serve as a lobbyist.
Medwed: Perfectly, that is precisely proper. If my math is accurate, I believe it is been 11 a long time given that his conviction. So the 10-yr bar wouldn’t use to him at all. So in legalese, the case is moot. That is the authorized expression with regard to DiMasi.
Siegel: So then why does the SJC take this circumstance in the 1st place?
Medwed: I consider the rationale is not about DiMasi for each se, but it can be about the reality that this is likely to recur again. Given our historical past of occasional lawmakers having into hassle with the feds, you know, it truly is attainable to re-come about. And I visualize the SJC wishes to explain the regulation or at least encourage the legislature to amend it in a way that is perhaps a little more powerful.
“Provided our history of occasional lawmakers obtaining into difficulties with the feds, you know, it’s attainable to re-occur.”
-GBH Information Authorized ANALYST DANIEL MEDWED
Alston: So, Daniel, we have a minimal far more time here to discuss about yet another scenario. Is there everything else that’s catching your eye on the docket this thirty day period?
Medwed: Indeed. So an additional one that grabbed my focus relates to a extremely publicized murder that happened in a higher finish condominium in South Boston a couple of years back. A two health professionals who had been engaged to marry each and every other have been located dead. And a previous concierge in the constructing was accused of the crime. His identify was Bampumim Teixeira. The situation went to demo, and Teixeira convicted of murder in 2019.
His attorneys have appealed that conviction and which is what is actually pending in the SJC this month. Amid the promises raised by the defense lawyers is that the prosecutors dedicated misconduct all through closing argument, their ultimate argument to the jury, when they mentioned the following: “Now engaged for eternity, Lina will endlessly be Richard’s fiancee, but never his bride. And why? Due to the fact of this man and his sick-conceived prepare.”
Siegel: Are prosecutors permitted to say factors like that to kind of make a blatant work to pull on the jury’s heartstrings?
Medwed: Usually not. Prosecutors may possibly not appeal to enthusiasm or prejudice, or elicit emotion, for worry that it will distract the jury from producing a rational or rational decision. So this is probably an error, but there are other limitations to conquering it. Very first, the demo attorney never objected to this assertion at the time, which suggests it might not be what’s named preserved for assessment on charm.
It could not be recognizable. 2nd, you will find a doctrine known as harmless error, which states even if you can find an error in the circumstance, it might not be more than enough to truly reverse the conviction specified all of the other evidence of guilt. So that could also arrive into enjoy right here.