Wednesday, May 5, 2021
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that denying a continuance sought for an in-person suppression hearing was an abuse of discretion
This case concerns whether the use of an Internet-based video conferencing platform, Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (Zoom), for an evidentiary hearing during the COVID-19 pandemic violates certain of the defendant's constitutional rights. The defendant, John W. Vazquez Diaz, has waived his right to a speedy trial and seeks to continue his suppression hearing until it may be held in person. We conclude that a virtual hearing is not a per se violation of the defendant's constitutional rights in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, where the defendant has waived his right to a speedy trial and there are no civilian victims or witnesses, we conclude that the judge, who had to make a decision in unchartered territory, abused her discretion in denying the defendant's motion to continue his suppression hearing until it may be held in person. Accordingly, we reverse the judge's order denying the defendant's motion to continue.
The defendant is charged with cocaine trafficking. (Mike Frisch)