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Recent Developments in Massachusetts Criminal Jury Instructions

Two very recent legal developments that KJC Law Firm is closely following relate to our newly established criminal defense practice, headed by our associate, John Martin.  In Commonwealth v. Gomes, SJC-11537 (January 12, 2015), the Supreme Judicial Court, which is the highest court in Massachusetts, recognized that “eyewitness identification is the greatest source of wrongful convictions,” and set forth a full eighteen pages of new jury instructions designed to prevent wrongful convictions based on inaccurate identifications.

Even more recently, the Supreme Judicial Court also clarified the definition of the term “moral certainty,” which has been part of the Reasonable Doubt jury instruction that jurors in our Commonwealth have received for the past 150 years.  In Commonwealth v. Russeel, SJC-11602 (January 26, 2015), the Supreme Judicial Court wrote that the term “moral certainty” means “the highest degree of certainty possible in matters relating to human affairs — based solely on the evidence that has been put before you in this case.” Attorney Martin’s familiarity with these new instructions will provide our criminal defense clients with the best available means to contest any unreliable eye-witness evidence that the government offers against them, and to emphasize how strong the evidence against them must be in order for them to be convicted of having committed a crime.

Moreover, our newest associate, Luke Rosseel, will also be using these jury instructions to argue against inaccurate identifications and insufficient evidentiary showings in the criminal appeals practice that KJC Law Firm is now undertaking.  Attorney Rosseel was recently certified for appeals and other post-conviction assignments from the Committee for Public Counsel Services Post Conviction Appellate Assignment Unit.  Said more simply, Attorney Rosseel will be accepting appointments to represent people who cannot themselves afford attorneys, and whose criminal convictions involved errors that suggest they were misidentified, and may not have committed the crimes they were convicted of.

All in all, as the law continues to develop, we at KJC Law Firm continue to study it, to gain an ever-deeper understanding of it, and to provide our clients with representation that reflects both our decades of experience, and our constant desire to remain ahead of the curve.