The Limits of 'Extraordinary Power': A Survey of First-Degree Murder Appeals Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 278, § 33E

Suffolk Journal of Trial and Appellate Advocacy, Vol. 16, Fall 2010

Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 10-19

34 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2010  

Stephanie Roberts Hartung

Suffolk University Law School

Date Written: March 30, 2010

Abstract

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts is afforded “extraordinary power” in reviewing first-degree murder convictions on appeal. Yet despite the plenary review established under § 33E - including the right to review the entire trial transcript for errors neither objected to at trial, nor raised on appeal - the survey undertaken in this article concludes that surprisingly few cases are reversed on appeal. This article presents the results of a survey of first-degree murder appeals in Massachusetts from 1998-2008. During that time-frame, just 7.25% of these convictions were reversed on appeal. Additionally, this article discusses the substantive issues giving rise to reversal, and the reversal rate for each issue. Criminal practitioners and scholars can benefit from a practical understanding of the aspects of homicide law which are most likely to support the reversal of a first-degree murder conviction.

Suggested Citation

Hartung, Stephanie Roberts, The Limits of 'Extraordinary Power': A Survey of First-Degree Murder Appeals Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 278, § 33E (March 30, 2010). Suffolk Journal of Trial and Appellate Advocacy, Vol. 16, Fall 2010; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 10-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1581677

Stephanie Roberts Hartung (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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