Assault and Battery on a Family Member in Massachusetts

In Commonwealth v. Jones, the appellate court considered a case in which the defendant was convicted of violating M.G.L. c. 265, § 13M, assault and battery on a family member. In 2015, the defendant and his wife were at home. The wife was using the husband’s cell phone to get some information for him, and she saw that he’d been texting with a woman. When she mentioned it to the husband, he got angry. They went to dinner for their anniversary and returned to their bedroom afterward.

The husband lay down, but the wife watched television. She saw that the husband’s cell phone was receiving text messages and that it kept beeping. The text message said, “I made money.” She woke up her husband to ask about the text, and the defendant jumped up and grabbed her neck with his hands, squeezing. Later at trial, the wife testified that this was common for him—jumping out of bed and getting verbally abusive. She went to a dollar store nearby and called her mom. The defendant called her and asked that she come home.

The wife told him she didn’t like the texts she’d seen and asked for an explanation. She called 911. An officer came to her at the dollar store, and another officer went to the defendant’s home. The husband was charged, and the wife testified against him, explaining that he’d sometimes gotten violent with her, sending her to the floor.

The defendant, however, testified that he and his wife hadn’t argued until they got home after dinner. He also testified she was upset because she wanted something bigger than dinner for their anniversary. He testified he woke up after his nap, and his wife had left. He thought she’d gone to the parking lot to drink inside her car. Eventually, the victim called him back and started cursing at him, claiming he had another girl. He testified that she hung up on him, he called her back, and she didn’t answer. He also testified she’d called 911 before and joked about it.

When his attorney asked him if he and his wife argued and had a rough relationship previously, he answered yes. He testified the police believed him but had to arrest him only because his wife claimed he’d put his hands around her throat. Before trial, his attorney had filed a motion in limine to prevent the prosecution and witnesses from referencing any prior bad acts of his. His attorney told the court she hadn’t received police reports about prior incidents between the couple.

The defendant appealed, arguing that his wife’s testimony about prior incidents was highly prejudicial and should have been omitted. The appellate court agreed with the court that the prosecutor’s questions didn’t ask for testimony about prior bad acts and were not objectionable. If the witness’ answer was arguably objectionable, the defendant was obliged to object or ask to strike the answer.

Since the defendant had testified about his rough relationship with the wife, the court found that general comments by the wife about their relationship didn’t add anything important. The victim’s testimony suggested the defendant’s motive for committing the crime. The appellate court affirmed the conviction.

If you are accused of assault and battery against a family member, 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

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