On this blog, we often discuss how due to the serious nature of criminal offenses, the government bears the burden of proving all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in certain cases, that is not the only burden of proof that the Commonwealth must bear. For example, as one Appeals Court decision affirms, in charging and sentencing based upon prior offenses, the prosecution must also prove that it was the same individual who committed the prior relevant offenses.
In the case, Commonwealth v. Cruz, Mass. App. Ct. (2013), the defendant was subjected to a two part trial. In the initial phase of the trial, the jury convicted the defendant of operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUI) and of negligent operation of a motor vehicle. In the second part, the jury convicted the defendant on the subsequent (third) offense portion of the operating under the influence charge. However, the defendant, Michelle Cruz, appealed on the later charge, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to establish that she was the individual who committed the two prior OUI offenses.
According to the opinion, the only evidence introduced by the Commonwealth to establish the defendant's identity, was a certified copy of Michele MacCord's 1993 OUI conviction and a certified copy of Michele Fortenbacher's 2003 OUI conviction. Both of those conviction records reflected a birth date of March 17, 1962.