Blaisdell v. Commonwealth

(Mass, Privilege against Self Incrimination applicable to psychiatric exam)

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SYLLABUS: Upon report without decision of a proceeding in the county court under G. L. c. 211, § 3, to vacate an interlocutory order by a judge of the Superior Court with which the petitioner was directed to comply prior to trial of a capital case against him, this court reviewed the order because it involved difficult questions of both a constitutional and statutory nature which were of great import both to the petitioner and the Commonwealth. [755]

The constitutional privilege against self-incrimination is applicable to a psychiatric examination of a criminal defendant by court order. [757-762]

The protection afforded a defendant by way of immunity under G. L. c. 233, § 23B, is not coextensive with the protection afforded by the constitutional privilege against selfincrimination. [762-764] Quirico, J., dissenting, with [***2] whom Braucher, J., joined.

A defendant in a criminal case who voluntarily submits to psychiatric interrogation as to his inner thoughts, the alleged crime, and other relevant factors bearing on his mental responsibility and, on advice of counsel, voluntarily proffers such evidence to the jury, waives his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination with respect to a court-ordered psychiatric examination. [764-766]

Where a defendant in a criminal case discloses his intention to interpose a defense of insanity at trial and to offer testimony of experts who intend to rely in whole or in part on statements of the defendant pertaining to his mental state at or about the time of the commission of the crime, the judge may order the defendant to submit to a psychiatric examination under certain terms and conditions by way of an appropriate protective order. [766-769] Quirico, J., dissenting, with whom Braucher, J., joined.

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