Friday, July 04, 2008

Appeals Court Upholds Gun Possession Conviction of Brighton High School Student

The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled Thursday that the physical search in 2004 of student Amenhotep Smith at Brighton High School, which led to discovery of a loaded handgun with four rounds of hollow-point ammunition, was reasonable and that the evidence was correctly allowed in his 2006 trial. Smith was convicted at trial of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Defense counsel had argued at appeal that the search violated the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights which, the appeals court noted, "in some circumstances... affords greater protection against arbitrary government action" than the Fourth Amendment." An assistant headmaster at the school searched Smith's jacket and found the handgun and ammunition.

The appeals court nonetheless upheld the trial judge's finding that the results of the search were admissible at trial:
In his findings, the motion judge determined that the search was justified based on three factors: the defendant's violation of a school rule by his presence in the hallway during class; his violation of a school rule by his failure to enter the building through the authorized entrance, namely, the front doors, which are secured with metal detectors, during specific arrival hours; and his failure to follow an arranged plan of dropping his belongings in Prieto's office at the start of the school day.
As such, the appeals court appears to have adjudicated the case based on the facts and case law, rather than calling into question more fundamental issues related to unreasonable search and seizure or the relation of Massachusetts to federal law.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, whose office prosecuted the case and argued the appeals case, released a statement Thursday:
"Our job doesn’t start with a trial or end with a conviction,” Conley said. “We prepare our cases carefully and ethically to withstand the scrutiny of the jury, and we build them on solid legal foundations so they stand up on appeal. Public safety demands that we take action when someone brings a loaded gun to school, and public confidence demands that our action be lasting and meaningful.”
The appeals court ruling upholds Smith's conviction on the gun and ammunition charges for which he was sentencde in 2006 to one year in prison.

See also: Allston-Brighton TAB and UniversalHub.

Image of handgun by robertnelson provided through a Creative Commons license.

No comments: