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Armed Robbery of a Gas Station in Massachusetts

gas stationIn a recent Massachusetts armed robbery case, a defendant appealed his conviction for armed robbery while masked. The case arose from an armed robbery of a gas station. The defendant, a regular customer, came in at 9 p.m. and bought $10 worth of gas. He was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. Ten minutes later, a man came into the store in jeans, a sweatshirt, and a facemask. Later, the second man was revealed to be same as the first — the defendant.

The defendant pointed a gun at one of the gas station attendants and told him to get money. He also pointed the gun at the other attendant and told him to get money. He told the first attendant to walk around the counter and stand by the other one. The second attendant opened the register and handed him the cash from inside it. The first attendant recognized the voice of the defendant and identified him to police later.

The robbery was recorded by surveillance cameras. The jury was shown a video recording of what happened, including the part in which the defendant bought gas just before the robbery. The defendant and the robber were wearing the same jeans and shoes, and they had the same height and weight.

Before the trial, the defense attorney filed a motion in limine asking for voir dire to decide whether the gas station attendant’s voice identification was reliable. There was a hearing, and the defense attorney agreed there were no specific identification procedures used. His motion was directed to whether the voice identification was reliable. The defense attorney argued that the identification was not reliable and couldn’t be admitted at trial because he’d testified earlier he was uncertain about his identification. The judge decided otherwise and found the identification was admissible.

The appellate court explained that based on the gas station attendant’s prior testimony, the judge was permitted to decide his testimony at trial would allow the jury to perform an independent assessment about whether the identification was accurate and reliable. Therefore, it found there was no abuse of discretion in the ruling that the voice ID was admissible.

The Commonwealth introduced into evidence a CD including surveillance video recordings that showed the defendant buying gas and committing the robbery, and nobody objected. It later showed a compilation video recording, which had two frames playing these two recordings next to each other. The defense attorney objected to the compilation recording. The judge provided an instruction that it wasn’t an original tape and wasn’t persuasive but allowed the jury to look at them together at once. In addition to the jury having this compilation during its deliberations, the prosecutor was allowed to use it during her closing argument.

The defendant argued on appeal that this was improper. The appellate court explained that juries are allowed to conduct visual comparisons of evidence. In this case, the video recordings were introduced on a single CD, and the jury didn’t have the independent technical ability to look at the recordings side by side. The fact that the Commonwealth created the compilation was not a basis to reverse.

For these and other reasons, the judgment was affirmed.

If you are charged with a theft crime in Massachusetts, 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