Dacier’s Take on. . . Criminal Trials in the Massachusetts Superior Court

Regardless of how heinous the charges, a criminal defendant is presumed innocent, with the Massachusetts Constitution providing a series of important safeguards for those accused of crimes in a court of law. Article XII provides the defendant with a right to counsel, and to due process. It also guarantees the defendant the right to “meet the witnesses against him face to face,” and to a trial by jury.

Recently we spoke with Superior Court Judge Linda E. Giles, who has served on that court for the past 15 years, and previously on the BMC for seven years. She typically alternates hearing civil and criminal cases for discrete three month periods, and frequently sits in Suffolk County. Despite welcome news of the hiring freeze of 2008 being lifted this year, Judge Giles notes that the Superior Court is still working with inadequate resources.

The criminal justice system can be unpredictable. For example, no one would have foreseen the state drug lab scandal. Yes, it’s true that the court has the benefit of a cadre of retired Superior Court judges addressing the drug lab cases on a per diem basis. But these cases still put a strain on the criminal justice system, diverting staff resources and courtroom space from other sessions. Similarly, high profile cases can attract large crowds, requiring additional security to maintain safety and decorum.

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