In a recent Massachusetts theft case, the defendant was convicted of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed robbery while masked. The case arose when the victim of the robbery came to his brother’s convenience store where he worked. He was carrying a bag with $35,000 in cash that was needed to pay lottery winners and address other store business. He believed a customer was coming in behind him, but it turned out to be a robber wearing black clothes, a mask, and gloves. The robber demanded the bag.
The victim tried to avoid giving it to the robber by throwing it on the store counter. The robber hit him with a crowbar, grabbed the bag, and ran away. The victim called 911. The police came to the scene and looked at the surveillance video recording. They called the detective unit and canine unit to track the robber. A trooper came with a canine that tracked the scene for a mile. The dog stopped at the door of a building. The trooper believed this meant that there was something behind the building door. He and other police officers arrested the defendant in a basement apartment at the building.
Another detective reported to the scene and was given a description of the suspect as being light-skinned and black-haired and wearing a heavy brown jacket with a hoodie and a woolen cap. The detective rode around searching for the suspect. Another detective told him to go to the street where the building was. The defendant was on the street walking his dog, and he went into the address where the canine had signaled. The police entered and found multiple people, including the defendant. The defendant was the only person who matched the description.
The detective would later testify that the surveillance footage showed the robber running away. It also showed that his hair was curly at the bottom and grew to his neck, and there was a lot of it. The robber had a specific gait and stature and light skin, like the person the detective later saw walking his dog and going into the building.
The defendant was convicted. He appealed, arguing among other things that it was improper for the detective to provide an opinion that he was a person of interest in the investigation based on his resemblance to the robber shown in the video recording. He argued that the jury saw the recording and stills, so they were in just as good a position as the detective to conclude whether or not the defendant was the robber.
The appellate court disagreed. It explained that the detective didn’t testify the defendant was the same person as the robber in the recording. Instead, he said that the defendant was a person of interest while outside the building because he resembled the robber whom he’d seen in the footage. The appellate court also explained that when there are certain factors, it is permissible to admit lay opinion testimony about the identity of suspects in a surveillance video. The factors include how familiar the witness is with the person in a video recording, how good the images are, and whether there’s been any change in how the defendant looks between the commission of the crime and the trial. For this reason, among others, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s judgment.
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