Abbot A., a juvenile v. Commonwealth 2010

Summary: The SJC finds that an individual who is determined incompetent to stand trial can still be subject to a dangerousness hearing under Ch. 276 § 58a. The court emphasizes the need to determine the reason for lack of competency in determining how long and under what provisions an individual can be held. While the court, in this case addresses a juvenile matter, the case is applicable to both adults and juveniles.

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 ABBOTT A., a juvenile vs. COMMONWEALTH.

SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS
458 Mass. 24; 933 N.E.2d 936; 2010 Mass.
September 20, 2010, Decided 

Defendant, a juvenile, was charged as a delinquent child by reason of various assault charges and a civil rights violation causing bodily injury. The Commonwealth moved for an order of pretrial detention and defendant was detained. Defendant moved to stay the Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 276, § 58A hearing. The motion was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk (Massachusetts) ordered defendant detained. Defendant appealed. The first issue before the supreme judicial court was whether a dangerousness hearing could be conducted where defendant had been determined to legally incompetent. The supreme judicial court concluded that it was not a per se violation of due process to hold a hearing under Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 276, § 58A to determine an incompetent person’s dangerousness,regardless of whether the person was a juvenile. The decisions to such hearings were not within those categories of “strategically important” decision reserved exclusively for a client. Next, the supreme judicial court concluded that the Commonwealth could satisfy its burden of proof at a § 58A hearing by relying solely on hearsay evidence, such as police reports and videotapes of police interrogation of codefendants and witnesses, as the rules of evidence did not apply at such § 58A hearing. Finally, the supreme judicial court concluded that the record was insufficient to determine whether defendant’s detention violated due process, as no determination was made as to whether defendant will attain competency in the foreseeable future and whether there was progress toward achieving competency. The order denying defendant’s motion to stay was affirmed. The case was remanded for a hearing to determine whether defendant remained incompetent to stand trial, whether there was a substantial probability that he would attain competency in the foreseeable future, whether he made progress toward achieving competency, and if there was such a substantial probability and progress, whether the duration of his pretrial detention was unreasonable.

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