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Commonwealth v. Lora

451 Mass. 425, 886 N.E.2d 688 (2008)

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Commonwealth v. Lora

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

451 Mass. 425, 886 N.E.2d 688 (2008)

Facts

Andres Lora (defendant) was a passenger in a vehicle on Interstate Route 290 in Auburn, Massachusetts. Lora and the driver were stopped by state trooper Brendhan Shugrue for violating a traffic law that prohibited the use of the left lane if another lane was unoccupied. When Shugrue approached the vehicle, he noticed a small bag containing white powder inside the car. Shugrue ordered Lora and the driver to step out of the car and investigated the bag. Shugrue concluded the bag contained cocaine. Shugrue called another officer for assistance in searching the vehicle. The officers conducted a search and found cocaine in the trunk. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (plaintiff) charged Lora with trafficking cocaine. Lora filed a motion to suppress the cocaine, alleging that the search was unconstitutional because Shugrue had racially profiled Lora, who was Hispanic. The trial court held a hearing on the motion to suppress. At the hearing, Lora introduced statistical support of his racial-profiling theory, using census-benchmarking analytics that compared the percentage of citations Shugrue had issued to each racial group while patrolling Route 290 with the racial demographics of Auburn. The results showed that Shugrue cited Hispanic drivers at a rate highly disproportionate to Auburn’s Hispanic population. The court found that Shugrue had racially profiled Lora and suppressed the cocaine. The commonwealth filed a motion for reconsideration, which the judge allowed. During the second hearing, the commonwealth called an expert who testified that census benchmarking was no longer accepted in the scientific community because it relied on the false premise that the demographic of drivers on a road was identical to the demographic of the town. The expert testified that 90 percent of the citations Shugrue issued did not involve Auburn residents. The judge affirmed the earlier suppression order. The commonwealth appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cordy, J.)

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