Saturday, 2:15 PM
Court reverses convictions after paperwork error
By Globe Staff
A form with a signature on it -- that's all that was apparently lacking in the case against an alleged cocaine dealer. But it was enough to get the man's convictions overturned today.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court, ruling in the Essex Superior Court case of Michael Castro, said that when a defendant wants to waive the right to a jury trial, he or she must fill out and sign a waiver form. The court said there was a "bright line rule" that the form must be filled out.
The idea is to give the defendant a moment of "pause and reflection," the court said, citing earlier opinions, and to ensure that "this fundamental right will not be extinguished without a permanent record of a defendant's agreement."
Castro did have a required discussion in court with the judge about his decision. However, the appeals court said, "Neither the file, the docket entries, nor the transcript of the waiver colloquy reveals, contains, or otherwise refers to a written waiver signed by the defendant having been filed in this case."
Castro was convicted of two counts of cocaine trafficking after a jury-waived trial in November 2005.
Attorney general's spokesman Harry Pierre said Castro had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on one count and five years on the other, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Asked whether prosecutors might retry the case, he said, "We're reviewing our options right now."
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