Commonwealth v. BryanAnnotate this Case
Defendant was one of three occupants of a vehicle that was stopped for a traffic violation. When Defendant, the rear seat passenger, exited the vehicle based on an exit order, a police officer observed a handgun underneath his right thigh. At trial, the court ordered that evidence concerning the front seat passenger’s prior conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm was excluded for all purposes. Defense counsel violated this order and proceeded to elicit this testimony anyway. The judge declared a mistrial. Thereafter, Defendant moved to dismiss the charges on double jeopardy grounds, arguing that there had been no manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. A superior court judge denied the motion. Defendant then filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The single justice concluded that the trial judge had erred in determining that there was a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter to the county court for entry of an order denying Defendant’s petition, holding (1) there was no abuse of discretion in the judge’s decision to declare a mistrial on the ground of manifest necessity; and (2) the single justice applied a substituted judgment standard in finding otherwise.