Articles Posted in Murder

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Although criminal defendants charged with 1st degree murder in Massachusetts do not have a right to bail, the Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that a judge has discretion to afford them with a bail. In its decision in Vasquez v. Commonwealth, the SJC explained that bail had been granted in the court’s discretion in capital cases from early colonial times. This “common law” rule had not been changed or overruled by statute.

By way of background, the Massachusetts legislature rewrote the bail statute in 1971. In that amendment, c. 276, sec. 58 established a presumption of release on personal recognizance pending trial. That statute, however, specifically excludes persons charged with “an offense punishable by death”. That provision, however, was interpreted to mean that sec. 58 doesn’t apply to persons charged with murder in the first degree, even though the SJC, in 1981, ruled that the death penalty statute then in effect was unconstitutional. For that reason, sec. 58 does not preclude bail for a person charged with 1st degree murder and it is in the judge’s discretion whether or not grant it – despite that there is no “constitutional right” to be released on bail prior to trial.

With this backdrop, the SJC outlined what factors a judge should consider when a criminal defendant charged with 1st degree murder requests that he be afforded a bail. The factors or balancing test is similar to those that a judge would consider in granting bail to any other criminal defendant, including: the nature and circumstances of the allegations; the defendant’s family background, educational history, financial resources, and ties to the community. Other factors that might also be considered include the defendant’s prior criminal history and/or record of convictions; whether there is any history or record of defaults in court appearances; his character; and his mental condition. The SJC further noted that judge’s should also consider if the murder or other criminal offense charged involved any circumstances of domestic abuse or violation of a restraining order.

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The United States Supreme Court reversed the murder conviction of a Louisiana man and granted him a new trial, finding that the the prosecutor had withheld evidence that could have supported his defense at trial that could have cast doubt on the credibility of prosecution witnesses. This case, Weary v. Cain, is notable because the SJC expanded upon the principle concerning violations of a defendant’s due process rights when the prosecution withholds material evidence.

Under the rule pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, the suppression by the prosecutor of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution. In Weary v. Cain, the SJC held that the defendant does not need to establish that “more likely than not” that he would have been acquitted if the withheld evidence had been admitted. Rather, the defendant claiming a “Brady violation” need only show that the evidence is sufficient to “undermine the confidence” in the verdict.

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in the case of Commonwealth v. Brescia, affirmed a judge’s allowance of the defendant’s motion for new trial on the grounds of, because of the defendant’s having had an undetected stroke during the course of his testimony, this medical condition could have affected his credibility before the jury.

James Brescia was tried in the Middlesex Superior Court in 2006, charged with murder in the shooting death of a man whom he believed was having an affair with his wife.  The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office alleged that the defendant had hired an assassin to kill his wife.  During trial, the defendant elected to testify in his own defense; and he was cross-examined by the prosecution over two days.

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Jared Remy, of Waltham, was charged this week in Waltham District Court with Massachusetts Murder Charges in connection with the stabbing death of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel.

According to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office, Waltham Police officers responded to a 911 call at Remy’s apartment and found what they described as a scene indicating a struggle inside and outside of the home. Ms. Martel, according to police, was located on the patio outside with multiple stab wounds.

A neighbor, identified by the Boston Globe as Benjamin Ray, told the media he witnessed the incident; that Remy was repeatedly stabbing her with a knife. He told reporters that he tried to stop it but it wasn’t enough.

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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.

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A second defendant was charged with Murder in connection to the October stabbing death of Cherby Lajoie in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The female defendant, Tarayiah Hunt, 21, of Dorchester, was formally arraigned in the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court recently and charged with murder.

The victim in this case, Cherby Lajoie, was found on on Charles Street on October 6th just after 1:00 a.m. suffering from 37 stab wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene.

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A Massachusetts man wanted by the Boston Police Fugitive Unit was arrested on Murder Charges in connection with the death of a Boston man on Valentine’s weekend in Mattapan.

The defendant, Kewon Kelley, was arraigned in the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court on murder and firearms charges.

According to the Boston Police and Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the victim, Rawshawn Lamont Few, 27, was shot in Mattapan on February 17, while he was at a party. Prosecutors and police believe that during an argument, the defendant pulled out a gun and shot Few.

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A New Bedford man was charged this past week with Massachusetts Murder Charges in connection with the death of a 9 month old infant.

The defendant, Ethen Harrison, was arraigned in New Bedford District Court this past week on the upgraded charge of murder. He had previously been arraigned on various assault charges.

According to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, the defendant allegedly assaulted the infant in the apartment he shared with the child’s mother. Although the two were reportedly living together, the defendant was not the biological father of the child.

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Two Boston men were arraigned on Massachusetts Murder Charges involving the shooting death of Courtney Jackson at the Dudley MBTA Station while he was waiting for the bus.

The two defendants, Brian Cooper and Jamel Bannister, were each arraigned in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court on charges of Murder and Gun Possession Charges.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, after an argument, the defendants pointed a gun at Courtney Jackson who was standing amongst a crowd of people at the Dudley MBTA Station. At the arraignment of the defendant, the prosecutor also represented that the entire incident was allegedly caught on video.

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Boston Police have arrested a second man in connection with the May Murder of Steven Fuentes.

Anthony Solomon is to be arraigned in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court and charged with Murder and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm. He is the second defendant charged in connection with this murder. George Ortega, of Lynn, was previously charged and arraigned in September.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, George Ortega and Steven Fuentes confronted each other in front of the victim’s home. The prosecution alleges that there was an “ongoing dispute” between the two men.