In Commonwealth v. Rivera, co-defendants were convicted of armed assault with intent to murder, armed robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, and armed carjacking. They appealed from their conviction. One claimed the judge showed racial bias during jury selection and that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for armed assault with intent to murder. The other challenged a jury instruction on eyewitness identification and remarks in the prosecutor’s closing argument.
The case arose when the defendants stopped the victim, a food delivery driver. They wanted a ride. One of the defendants sat in front while the other sat in back. The defendant in front showed the victim a gun and told him to drive them to various places. At a stop where one defendant’s friend lived, the other defendant grabbed him by the neck and beat him with the gun, pulling him into the back of the car. The other defendant moved into the driver’s seat. The victim heard the defendants say they would kill him and throw him in the lake.
The victim managed to get the back door open, but the defendant in the front seat got out and hit him with the gun. The defendant said he would kill him for staining his shorts. The defendants robbed the victim of about $1,400 plus his cell phone. The victim ran away and heard three gunshots. One of the defendants pointed a gun at him.
Later, the victim identified the defendants as his attackers based on photo arrays. The defendants were convicted. On appeal, the defendant in the front seat claimed racial bias by the judge in refusing to ask the prospective jurors questions about the propensity of Hispanic men to commit crimes. The defendant asserted that the judge’s question to defense counsel showed judicial bias. The appellate court disagreed, explaining that the judge asked the question to understand the defense request and more carefully consider the issues.
The defense argued there was insufficient evidence to support the armed assault with intent to murder conviction. They also argued that the jury should have been required to draw the inference that the defendants shot at the victim in order to scare him as he escaped. The appellate court explained that the Commonwealth was required to prove the defendant knew of the gun used in the crime and had the specific intent to kill the victim. Based on the victim’s testimony about what the defendants said and the brutal beating with handguns, the jury was entitled to find the required intent. The first defendant’s conviction was affirmed.
The other defendant argued that the eyewitness jury instruction should have given jurors more information about the accuracy of eyewitness identification. In another case, the Supreme Judicial Court did adopt many of the defendant’s proposed changes involving more information. But these changes only apply to later cases. In this case, the court found that the defendant had presented no expert testimony or scholarly articles to buttress his arguments. Therefore, the judge had acted appropriately within his discretion.
The second defendant also challenged the prosecution’s closing argument, which appealed to the sympathy of the jury by referencing the victim and his family. The defendant had raised in his cross-examination of the victim’s employer that the victim was a drug dealer and that’s why he was attacked. The defendant also claimed he had been falsely identified because the victim didn’t want to implicate the true attackers who were associated with the drug dealing. The court rejected this argument, noting that the judge had instructed the jury that closing arguments were not evidence. It affirmed the judgment.
If you are charged in Massachusetts with armed assault, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.
More Blog Posts:
Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015
Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014