Good News from the Supreme Judicial Court!

Post Date: August 23, 2013

Today, Massachusetts’ top court issued its decision in the case of Commonwealth v. Galvin.  As you know, last year’s sentencing reforms, which took effect on August 2, 2012, reduced some mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.  The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) decided that the new, shorter mandatory minimums apply to those drug offenders whose offenses occurred before August 2, 2012, but were sentenced after that date. This group of drug offenders will not be eligible for parole before serving their (shorter) mandatory minimum, but it’s still very good news. 

FAMM congratulates Natick attorney David Levinson, who won the case for his client, Thomas Galvin.  You can read the SJC’s full opinion here

More SJC cases scheduled for this fall.  

On October 7, the SJC will hear arguments in two cases concerning the new school zone law, Commonwealth v. Pagan and Commonwealth v. Bradley.  Under the 2012 reforms, the size of school zones was reduced from 1,000 feet to 300 feet.  In both of these cases, the defendants are accused of committing a drug offense more than 300 feet from a school before the new law took effect.  Neither case has gone to trial.  The SJC will decide which law applies. If the new law applies, the school zone charges will be dismissed.  

On October 10, the SJC will hear arguments in six cases involving evidence that was tested at the Hinton Laboratory, where former chemist Annie Dookhan worked. In each case, the defendant asked the trial court either to allow them to withdraw their guilty pleas or to dismiss certain charges.  Some motions were granted while others were denied.  The cases are: 

Commonwealth v. Rodriquez
Commonwealth v. Davila
Commonwealth v. Bjork
Commonwealth v. Scott
Commonwealth v. Torres
Commonwealth v. Gardner

As you probably saw on the news, chemist Dookhan has now been linked to over 40,000 cases, up from the 34,000 previously identified.  FAMM continues to believe that prosecutors should dismiss entire categories of cases, rather than forcing such a huge number of defendants to go back to court to re-litigate their cases.  Perhaps the six cases listed above will result in some guidance as to how drug lab cases should be handled.  


Barbara J. Dougan

Massachusetts Project Director