Commonwealth v. ScanlonAnnotate this Case
The case involves the Commonwealth's appeal of a judgment by a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which upheld a lower court judge's decision to disqualify a prosecutor, Matthew Green, from a murder case. The defendant, Blake Scanlon, had been indicted on murder charges and was also later charged with soliciting to commit witness intimidation and murder. One of the solicitation targets was Green, the prosecutor for the initial murder indictment. The basis for Green's disqualification was not because he was a victim in the solicitation case, but because he made himself a potential witness at trial. This was due to his interactions with a jailhouse informant, with whom Scanlon was incarcerated and who claimed Scanlon solicited him for a murder-for-hire plot. In exchange for the informant's cooperation, Green advocated for lighter sentences and bail conditions for him in separate legal proceedings. The defendant argued that these actions made Green a potential witness, either to confirm or dispute the informant's claims, or to question the informant's credibility due to bias in favor of the Commonwealth. The lower court judge agreed and disqualified Green from the case. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing that Green's disqualification was an error, as he was only a potential witness, and that other means could be used to present the necessary information at trial. The Commonwealth also argued that the disqualification raised separation of powers concerns by interfering in the executive branch's discretion to choose a prosecutor. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, affirming the lower court judge's decision. It found that the level of Green's involvement with the informant's legal proceedings was extensive, making him more than just a potential witness, and that the judge's decision did not constitute an intolerable interference in the executive branch.