Supreme Judicial Court (February 14, 2008)

A proper grant of immunity from a judge protects a witness from prosecution on the basis of the immunized testimony in any court in the Commonwealth, and must be recognized in the Juvenile Court.

Two adults and two juveniles were charged with Assault and Battery. The adult cases proceeded in Superior Court. The two juveniles were indicted as youthful offenders and their cases remained in Juvenile Court. During the trial of one of the adults, at the request of the Commonwealth, a Superior Court judge granted immunity to one of the juvenile defendants for his testimony.

The Commonwealth later filed a motion in the Juvenile Court asking the Court to "honor" the immunity order granted by the Superior Court Judge for trial against the juvenile co-defendant. The Juvenile Court Judge denied the motion stating, "this court cannot extend and apply in the Juvenile Court a Superior Court's order granting immunity to a witness in a pending Superior Court matter." The Commonwealth filed an interlocutory appeal and a single justice reported the matter to the full bench.

The juvenile argued that the Superior Court's immunity order does not extend to the Juvenile Court because the language in G.L. c. 233 § 20E reads: "a justice of the supreme judicial court, appeals court or superior court shall … issue an order granting immunity to a witness…." The Juvenile Court is not mentioned in the statute. The SJC disagreed, ruling that the immunity order granted in Superior Court protects the juvenile from risk of incrimination in any proceeding in any court in the Commonwealth.