Aldrich, petitioner (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-094-14)

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ROBERT ALDRICH, petitioner.




June 4, 2014.




Habeas CorpusSupreme Judicial Court, Superintendence of inferior courts.




Robert Aldrich appeals from a judgment of a single justice of this court denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus or, in the alternative, for relief under G. L. c. 211, § 3.  We affirm.


Aldrich was charged with, among other offenses, unarmed burglary.  A jury trial proceeded in the Superior Court, after which Aldrich was convicted of various offenses.  The transcript as prepared by the court reporter states that when the jury delivered their verdict, the clerk asked the foreperson whether Aldrich was guilty of “armed burglary.”  The foreperson responded that Aldrich was “guilty as charged.”  Aldrich moved to vacate what he argued was an unlawful conviction of an uncharged offense and sentence thereon.  The Commonwealth responded with a motion to correct the record, arguing that the reference to “armed burglary” was merely a transcription error.  After a hearing, the trial judge allowed the Commonwealth’s motion and denied Aldrich’s motion.[1]  Aldrich’s petition ensued.



A writ of habeas corpus “cannot be employed as a substitute for ordinary appellate procedure.”  Sheriff of Suffolk County v. Pires, 438 Mass. 96, 99 (2002), quoting Crowell v. Commonwealth, 352 Mass. 288, 289 (1967).  A petition for the writ must be based on “grounds distinct from the issues at the indictment, trial, conviction, or sentencing stage.”  Glawson v. Commonwealth, 445 Mass. 1019, 1020 (2005), quoting Stewart, petitioner, 411 Mass. 566, 568 (1992).  Aldrich’s request is clearly based on a claimed error that occurred at the conviction stage and that can, if warranted, be remedied in the appellate process.  While Aldrich argues that there is an exception to this rule “where the court or magistrate by whose purported authority the imprisonment was imposed had no jurisdiction to impose it,” Crystal, petitioner, 330 Mass. 583, 591 (1953), it is not at all clear that this is the case here.  There is a dispute whether the transcript reference to “armed burglary” accurately reflects what was spoken in court.  The trial judge resolved that dispute against Aldrich.  On the record before her, the single justice was not compelled to conclude that the judge did so wrongly or that Aldrich’s conviction was beyond the Superior Court’s jurisdiction.  In these circumstances, there was no error in denying a writ of habeas corpus.  Similarly, Aldrich’s alternative request for relief under G. L. c. 211, § 3, was properly denied, as Aldrich is entitled to appeal from the judge’s ruling (and, indeed, is doing so).  “Our general superintendence power under G. L. c. 211, § 3, is extraordinary and to be exercised sparingly, not as a substitute for the normal appellate process . . . .”  Votta v. Police Dep’t of Billerica, 444 Mass. 1001, 1001 (2005).


Judgment affirmed.


The case was submitted on briefs.


Robert Aldrich, pro se.

     [1] Aldrich’s appeal from this ruling is pending in the Appeals Court.  We express no view on the merits of this appeal or of the trial judge’s ruling.

     [2] Even if the clerk did in fact say “armed burglary,” there is the question whether this means that Aldrich was wrongly convicted of that uncharged offense, despite other evidence in the record suggesting he was convicted of unarmed burglary, the charged offense.

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