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Commonwealth v. Dirgo (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-088-16)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11992   COMMONWEALTH  vs.  AARON DIRGO.     June 21, 2016. Practice, Criminal, Argument by prosecutor.      After a jury trial, the defendant, Aaron Dirgo, was convicted of aggravated rape and abuse of a child (four counts), G. L. c. 265, § 23A, and indecent assault and battery on a child under fourteen years of age (two counts), G. L. c. 265, § 13B.  He appealed from the convictions and from the denial of his motion for a new trial.  He argued, among other things, that the prosecutor’s improper closing argument, to which he did not object at trial, created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice.  The Appeals Court affirmed.  Commonwealth v. Dirgo, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 1115 (2015).  We granted further appellate review limited to the issues concerning the closing argument.  Because we conclude that the cumulative effect of various improper statements in the prosecutor’s argument created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice, we reverse.   1.  Facts.  The complainant in the case, whom the parties refer to as H.R., met the defendant when she was twelve years old.  Her mother and brother were friendly with the defendant and his son, and their families socialized together.   The complainant testified that the defendant began to sexually assault her after she volunteered to babysit for the defendant’s son.  When she babysat in the evenings, she would sometimes stay overnight at his house.  At first the defendant touched her under a blanket as they sat on the couch and watched television.  She described that over time the touching became more “intimate.”  After the complainant turned thirteen years old, the defendant “progressed . . . [to] sexual intercourse.”  She testified that they had sexual relations frequently between 2010 and May, 2011, although she could not identify specific dates.  She also testified that, at the time, she developed strong feelings for the defendant and wanted to be in a relationship with him.   Although the complainant told a friend at school about the relationship, she kept it from her mother.  She also wrote notes to the defendant about her feelings and their relationship, although she did not deliver them.  When her mother discovered one of her notes and confronted her, the complainant denied that she and the defendant had an inappropriate relationship.  She described her account in the note as […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - June 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm

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