Decision Commonwealth v. McGonagle

Date: 01/18/2018
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Table of Contents

Commonwealth v. McGonagle

Commonwealth v. McGonagle
Supreme Judicial Court, January 18, 2018
(Defendant’s Rights/Victim Impact Statements)

The Court considered two questions regarding victim impact statements under G.L. c. 258B, §3(p):

1. Whether the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Bosse v. Oklahoma, 137 S. Ct. 1 (2016), precludes a sentencing judge from considering victim impact statements "as to a recommended sentence" under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art. 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights?

“We conclude that a sentencing judge's consideration of victim impact statements ‘as to a recommended sentence’ is constitutional because the concerns underpinning the Supreme Court's treatment of victim impact statements before a jury during the sentencing phase of a capital murder trial differ from those at issue here.”

2. Whether the sentencing recommendation provision violates the defendant's constitutional guarantee of due process?

“[A] victim's right to recommend a sentence pursuant to G. L. c. 258B, § 3 (p), satisfies the requirements of due process.”

“We all stand equal before the bar of justice, and it is neither cruel nor unusual or irrational, nor is it violative of a defendant's due process guarantees, for a judge to listen with intensity to the perspective of a crime victim.”