Commonwealth v. FrancisAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant's right to choice of private counsel and right to be present during a critical stage of the proceedings under both the federal and state constitutions were violated during his criminal trial, requiring automatic reversal absent waiver, but that the delay of more than thirty years in bringing these claims under these circumstances waived the claims under state and federal constitutional law.
In 1982, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree. In 2015, Defendant filed a second motion for a new trial asserting that the appointment of his court-appointed, State-funded counsel violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment and article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) Defendant's right to choice of private counsel and right to be present during a critical stage of the proceedings under both the federal and state constitutions were violated, and these violations were structural errors; (2) the delay in bringing these claims combined with the fact that the transcript clearly depicting the constitutional violations was available for Defendant in 1991 and for the public defense counsel screening his claims in 1992-1993 and 2000 waived Defendant's claims; and (3) there was no substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice.