Murder Cases


Attorneys who wish to be certified to accept first and second-degree murder cases must be individually approved by the Chief Counsel of CPCS.  Each applicant must meet the minimum requirements set forth below. In addition, the Chief Counsel may consider any and all additional information that s/he deems relevant to an appropriate decision on each application. Please see the Application for Criminal Case Assignments on pages 3 and 4.

Training Requirement: None (No training prerequisite for initial certification. 8 hours per fiscal year CLE requirement for recertification).

Minimum Requirements:

  1. Five years of criminal litigation experience.
  2. Familiarity with the practice and procedures in the Massachusetts criminal courts.
  3. Lead counsel in at least ten jury trials of serious and complex cases within the past 5 years, at least five of which have been life felony indictments, in which cases resulted in a verdict, decision or hung jury.
  4. Familiarity with and experience in the utilization of expert witnesses, including psychiatric and forensic evidence.
  5. Attendance at specialized training programs (such as MCLE or bar association criminal practice programs, National Institute for Trial Advocacy, National Criminal Defense College).

Application Procedure:

The applicant should submit a letter and the Application for Criminal Case Assignments (PDF) found by going back 1 page on this website to the CPCS Chief Counsel explaining in detail why s/he meets each of the requirements listed above.

A list of cases which meet requirement (3) above must be included, giving the name of the case, indictment numbers and charges, names of judges and prosecutors, dates of trial, and a short statement of each case which includes a description of the major issues.  Specific cases describing the applicant’s utilization of expert witnesses should be included. In addition, the applicant should submit the names, dates, and sponsors of training programs which meet requirement (5) above, as well as the names and addresses of 3 criminal defense practitioners familiar with applicant’s work.  The letter and attachments should be sent to:

CPCS Chief Counsel
Committee for Public Counsel
75 Federal Street, 6th Floor
Boston, MA  02110
Attn: Certification Coordinator for Criminal Cases

The Chief Counsel will notify the applicant when a decision has been made.

Assignment of Cases:

Under the provisions of c.211D, §8, the Chief Counsel will assign murder cases to attorneys certified to handle cases, subject to the approval of the justice making the determination of indigency.  Attorneys certified for murder case assignments are certified as well for Superior Court and District Court criminal cases, which are assigned through the county Bar Advocate program.

Performance Requirements:

Attorneys who accept first and second-degree murder cases must represent their clients at all stages of the criminal proceedings except the appeal of a conviction to the Appeals Court or Supreme Judicial Court. In the event of a conviction however, it remains the responsibility of the trial attorney to file a Notice of Appeal, a Motion to Withdraw, a Motion to Appoint Substitute Counsel and to request CPCS to assign successor counsel for the appeal.

In addition to representing the client in Superior Court, the attorney who accepts a murder assignment must provide representation at the District Court arraignment and probable cause hearing  and at any sentence appeal before the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

By accepting assignments on Superior Court cases, attorneys agree to abide by the CPCS Performance Guidelines Governing Representation of Indigents in Criminal Cases. A copy of the Guidelines may be obtained from the Training Unit. The Guidelines may also be found in the Assigned Counsel Manual.

Murder List Application 2022