Thursday, June 25, 2009

Massachusetts Erroneous Convictions Law

Yesterday, in Guzman v. Commonwealth, the Appeals Court provided guidance on section 1(B) of MGL c.258D, which provides for relief for the erroneously convicted under certain circumstances.
The court ruled that eligibility under 1(B)(ii) for those who have been granted judicial relief "on grounds which tend to establish the[ir] innocence," means "no more and no less than grounds resting upon facts and circumstances probative of the proposition that the claimant did not commit the crime." Therefore, the plaintiff's claim was allowed to go forward.
The court went on to explain that this was simply a decision on the threshold issue of eligibility to proceed, since that was the issue that was briefed, but that factual innocence may be an appropriate issue for summary judgment in such cases. "We recognize, as a theoretical matter, that there could well be instances where the Commonwealth would be entitled to judgment as matter of law (e.g., summary judgment or directed verdict) on the actual innocence issue. The question presented would be whether, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the claimant, a jury could find, by clear and convincing evidence, that the plaintiff did not commit the crime. "