Charges of possession of a firearm, possession of a loaded firearm and possession of ammunition were dismissed against Lynn Massachusetts last week in a local district court. The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred on April 17, 2008. According to the police report, the police responded to the area of Route 1 in Peabody Massachusetts for a call of a woman being run down by a motor vehicle. After responding to the scene, the police spoke to the involved parties, and transported the female defendant back to her residence. When the police arrived at the residence the defendant's boyfriend was also there. The defendant was ultimately arrested on an outstanding default warrant.
The defendant was transported in a cruiser to the State Police Barracks in Danvers, MA. After she was taken from the cruiser and into the police station the Trooper searched the car and claimed that he found a loaded handgun in stuffed behind the rear seat of the cruiser. No-one ever identified the defendant as in possession of this weapon.
The defendant maintained her innocence from the outset of the set. There was no physical evidence that connected her to the gun. Attorney Kathleen McCarthy timely filed a number of pre-trial motions requesting copies of any notes, logs or other documentation generated as a result of the transportation of any individual in the cruiser that the defendant was transported in for a period of one week prior to this incident. The request also included all police reports generated in connection with this case. Massachusetts also requires the prosecution to provide automatic discovery of “any facts of an exculpatory nature.” M.R.C.P. 14 (a)(1)(iii). It was clear that the intent of requesting the information relative to individuals transported in the cruiser was to determine whether anyone else was in the cruiser that was involved in a “firearm” related incident. No information was forwarded to the defense relative to this request prior to trial.
On the day of trial, the prosecutor approached the defense attorney and indicated that the arresting trooper informed her that prior to the defendant’s arrest he had been called to back up the State Police in Concord relative to a report, by a named caller who gave his cell number, of a group of individuals in a truck with a gun. Apparently, there were three individuals in the truck that matched the description given by the caller. The individuals were taken from the truck. One of these “suspects” was placed in the rear of the Trooper's cruiser. The same cruiser in which the Trooper found the alleged firearm after the defendant's arrest. There was handgun ammunition, shot gun shells, controlled substances and alcohol found in the truck. The driver of the truck was arrested and charged with illegal possession of a Class D substance, illegal possession of ammunition and illegal possession of alcohol. The judge granted the defendant a continuance to investigate the incident. Based on the late disclosure of the requested exculpatory evidence, Attorney Kathleen McCarthy filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Almost fifteen months after the incident the caller could not be located and the 911 tape had been destroyed. Despite the efforts of an experienced investigator, the named caller could not be located and the cell phone number no longer belonged to the individual that made the call fifteen months earlier. After an extended hearing the district court judge agreed that the fact that the Trooper had placed an individual in his cruiser who was suspected of being in possession of a handgun only a few hours before the defendant was placed in the cruiser should have been disclosed to the defendant pursuant to the discovery orders rather than seventeen months later on the day of trial. The trial judge held that the late disclosure caused irremediable harm to the defendant's case and dismissed the charges against the defendant.
This case exemplifies the importance of filing all relevant pre-trial motions. Experienced defense attorneys often file pre-trial motions including discovery motions, motions to suppress, motions to dismiss and motions to compel in order to effectively represent their clients and protect their rights to due process and a fair trial.