Criminal cases involving adult defendants in Berkshire County are prosecuted in three district courts, as well as in the Superior Court, located in Pittsfield. All felonies in Berkshire County are eligible to be prosecuted in the Superior Court. However, due to their seriousness, certain categories of crimes can only be prosecuted in Superior Court. These crimes include murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, drug trafficking, and home invasion. Some felonies can be prosecuted in either a district or Superior Court. Examples of cases that have dual jurisdiction include drug distribution, high-risk domestic abusers, illegal firearms possession, and cases where defendants qualify as “habitual offenders” due to their lengthy criminal records. A defendant charged with a felony in Superior Court can be sentenced to state prison. The decision whether to charge an individual in Superior Court is not only determined by the seriousness of the crime charged, but also the facts and circumstances, the persons criminal record, and in consultation with the investigators and the victim.
Cases in Superior Court are tried by 12-person juries, as opposed to 6-person juries in the District Court. Regardless of where the case is tried, the Commonwealth’s standard of proof at trial remains the same: a person cannot be convicted unless all jurors unanimously agree, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty. This is a bedrock constitutional principle that helps guard against wrongful convictions.