Criminal Law Keyed to Johnson
Myers v. Commonwealth
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A Massachusetts statute outlines preliminary-hearing procedures. The statute provides that a court must examine the state prosecution’s witnesses in the defendant’s presence and that the defendant may present evidence and cross-examine state witnesses with help from counsel. A judge held a preliminary hearing to determine whether there was probable cause to support the prosecution of Kenneth Myers (Defendant) on charges of rape and assault. At the preliminary hearing, the complaining witness testified on the state’s behalf but merely repeated the rape accusations against Defendant. At the end of the direct examination, Defendant’s counsel commenced a cross-examination. However, before the cross-examination was finished, the judge stated that there was already enough evidence to find probable cause. Defendant’s counsel objected, wanting to complete the cross-examination and introduce further evidence on Defendant’s behalf, including a medical report and psychiatric evaluation of the complaining witness. The judge repeated the finding of probable cause and ended the hearing. Defendant petitioned to have the finding of probable cause vacated on the grounds that Defendant’s statutory rights to confront his accuser and present evidence had been violated. The state argued that Defendant did not have an absolute right to cross-examine state witnesses and present testimony, as the judge presiding over the preliminary hearing had the discretion to find probable cause even after listening only to the state prosecution’s witnesses.
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