Posts tagged "1008415"

Commonwealth v. Magdalenski (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-084-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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;   SJC-11701   COMMONWEALTH  vs.  CHRISTOPHER G. MAGDALENSKI. May 22, 2015.     Evidence, Cross-examination, Bias, Impeachment of credibility.  Witness, Cross-examination, Bias, Impeachment.     After a jury trial in the Northampton Division of the District Court Department, the defendant, Christopher Magdalenski, was convicted of one count of assault and battery in violation of G. L. c. 265, § 13A, against his sister, Bethany Magdalenski.[1]  In an unpublished memorandum and order pursuant to Appeals Court rule 1:28, the Appeals Court affirmed the conviction.  Commonwealth v. Magdalenski, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 1104 (2014).  We granted Christopher’s application for further appellate review to address whether the trial judge abused his discretion in excluding evidence of the Commonwealth witnesses’ alleged bias, prejudice, and motive to prevaricate.  We reverse and remand for a new trial.   Christopher claims that he did not assault Bethany.  Instead, he alleges that he was the victim of an unprovoked attack by Bethany’s boyfriend, William Graham, an off-duty Worthington police officer, and that Bethany was accidentally injured in the process.  His principal contention is that Bethany and Graham fabricated their allegations against him in order to justify Graham’s actions, specifically, that they were motivated to prevaricate because of Graham’s concern that his own actions would have criminal consequences and professional consequences for his career as a police officer.  The trial judge, however, precluded Christopher from impeaching Bethany’s and Graham’s testimony with an application for a criminal complaint that was filed at Christopher’s behest against Graham regarding the incident; evidence suggesting that Christopher was coerced to withdraw the application because of threats and other statements made essentially by Bethany and Graham; and related evidence.  The trial judge ruled that, because no criminal charges were pending against Graham, there was no occasion to consider the application, the circumstances under which it was withdrawn, or related matters.   “It is a basic rule that reasonable cross-examination for the purpose of showing bias and prejudice is a matter of right.”  Commonwealth v. Martin, 434 Mass. 1016, 1017 (2001), quoting Commonwealth v. Martinez, 384 Mass. 377, 380 (1981).  Although a trial judge has discretion to limit cross-examination when necessary, “he or she has no discretion to prohibit all inquiry into [a subject that could show bias or prejudice on the part of the witness]” (citation omitted), Commonwealth v. Tam Bui, 419 Mass. 392, 400, cert. denied, 516 […]


Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - May 22, 2015 at 7:46 pm

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