For Immediate Release - May 01, 2007

Appeals Court Affirms Conviction Of Court Officer Who Traded Cigarettes For Sex With Prisoner

A former court officer at the Newburyport District Court who gave cigarettes to a female prisoner in exchange for sex lost his bid to have his conviction overturned.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court today affirmed the conviction of Douglas Morrill, III, 53, of Gloucester, for two counts of committing an unnatural and lascivious act with another person in a public place. He was sentenced in October of 2004 to 2-4 years in state prison, to be followed by five years probation.

On November 7, 2003, Morrill was in charge of the custody a 20 year-old female prisoner. She twice performed a sexual act on Morrill in exchange for cigarettes. Both acts took place in the courthouse, one in the holding cell on the second floor in an area viewable by video monitor, and the other in the basement hallway outside another holding cell.

In his appeal Morrill claimed that the holding areas in the courthouse were not "public" because they were not accessible to the general public. He also claimed that he took sufficient steps to ensure his privacy. The third claim was that the trial judge's instruction on the elements of the crime forced him to prove that he "eliminated" all possibility that his conduct would be discovered. Lastly, he claimed that the use of the word "moral" in the standard moral certainty instruction inflamed the jury and caused it to punish him for the immorality, but not the illegality of the acts.

This is the first case in which a Massachusetts appellate court has said that a public place for the purposes of committing unnatural and lascivious acts need not be accessible to the general public. Rather, a public place is one "likely to be entered or observed by persons other than the perpetrators."

Essex Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Steinfield represented the Commonwealth. Morrill was represented by Attorney Richard N. Foley.