Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

Commonwealth v. Edwards (SJC-13242)

August 17, 2022

The BBA filed an amicus letter in this case regarding a criminal defense attorney’s obligations when a judge poses a question at pre-trial conference that calls for disclosure of trial strategy. Our letter argued that, under these circumstances, defense counsel’s careful response complied with his ethical obligation of zealous advocacy for his client (adopting and expanding on the argument in a CPCS brief), and urged the Court to provide additional guidance to define and circumscribe the type of question that is appropriate to pose in this context. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in December 2022 that Mr. Edwards could not be retried after the trial judge dismissed his case with prejudice because the prosecution attempted to introduce evidence to prove its case at trial, despite not having produced it pre-trial. The Court agreed with the argument in our letter-brief that it was proper for the defense attorney not to reveal that he had been given the wrong certificate of service, writing that the “defendant was under no obligation to disclose at the pretrial conference that the certificate of service he received through discovery was insufficient to support a conviction” because, if the defense made such a disclosure, “his trial strategy would have been unveiled to the prosecution.”