In Commonwealth v. Akara, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered whether evidence of a defendant’s “gang affiliation” was properly admissible in his murder trial on a theory of joint venture.
In that case, the defendant was charged as a joint venturer in the murder of Philip Gadsden at an MBTA station.
At trial, the government introduced evidence of the defendant’s gang affiliation through the testimony of a Boston Police Officer. The officer testified that the Boston Police Department classifies any group or association of four or more people who call themselves by a group name and have various identifying signs, symbols or clothing. At trial, witnesses testified that the defendants were associated with a particular gang, but there was no evidence of any specific criminal activity by this gang other than alleged vandalism.