Posts tagged "1010813"

Commonwealth v. Chambers (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-108-13)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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‑11230   COMMONWEALTH  vs.  ANTHONY CHAMBERS.     Suffolk.     February 5, 2013.  ‑  June 13, 2013. Present:  Ireland, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Gants, Duffly, & Lenk, JJ.     Homicide.  Self‑Defense.  Evidence, Self‑defense, Prior violent conduct, Opinion, Reputation.  Practice, Criminal, Opening statement, Instructions to jury.       Indictment found and returned in the Superior Court Department on March 12, 2008.   The case was tried before Regina L. Quinlan, J.   After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.     Kenneth I. Seiger for the defendant. Ian Polumbaum, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.     GANTS, J.  The defendant was convicted by a Superior Court jury of the involuntary manslaughter of Edward Quiles.  There was no dispute that the defendant had stabbed the victim to death, but the defendant contended that he did so in self-defense.  Before trial, the judge ruled that, under our common-law rule of evidence established in Commonwealth v. Adjutant, 443 Mass. 649 (2005) (Adjutant), the defendant could offer evidence that the victim participated in a violent assault of a third person twenty-one months before the victim died in support of the defendant’s claim that the victim was the first aggressor in the incident that resulted in the victim’s death.  In his opening statement, defense counsel promised to offer this evidence, but later in the trial the judge, sua sponte, reversed her ruling and found that this evidence was not admissible because there was no dispute that the victim was the first aggressor.  The judge additionally refused defense counsel’s request to inform the jury that she found the promised evidence of the victim’s prior violent act inadmissible because there was no evidence that the defendant was the first aggressor.  The primary issue on appeal is whether the judge erred in excluding this evidence on this ground where the evidence indicated that the victim was plainly the first to provoke a nondeadly altercation but where it was hotly disputed whether the defendant or the victim was the first to grab the knife that escalated the nondeadly conflict into a deadly one.   We conclude that a judge in her discretion may admit so-called “Adjutant evidence”[1] where there is a dispute at trial as to who threatened or struck the first blow or as to who initiated the […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - June 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

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