Supreme Judicial Court Upholds Superior Court's Dismissal of Murder Indictment

January 10, 2013
By Parker Scheer LLP on January 10, 2013 2:31 PM |

The Supreme Judicial Court has upheld a Superior Court's dismissal of a second degree murder indictment against the defendant.

A grand jury returned an indictment for second degree murder against the defendant in the killing of Rene Valdez. Because the prosecutor failed to disclose certain exculpatory evidence to the grand jury that the altercation may have begun when the victim and an accomplice tried to rob the defendant, the Superior Court dismissed the indictment against the defendant, who was sixteen at the time of the alleged crime.

When the grand jury returned an indictment against the defendant for the second time, the Superior Court dismissed the charge again on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The Commonwealth appealed the second dismissal.

The Supreme Judicial Court first noted that the Superior Court was incorrect regarding the sufficiency of the evidence for a second degree murder charge. The Commonwealth offered sufficient evidence to prove the two elements of murder in the second degree: that an unlawful killing had been committed and that it had been committed with malice. Furthermore, the Commonwealth bears no burden to present evidence that the killing may have occurred in a heat of passion arising from reasonable provocation or sudden combat, or constituted excessive use of force in self-defense.

However, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the indictment must be overturned because the grand jury did not take into account the defendant's youth. "An indictment for murder brought against a juvenile defendant carries an added and significant consequence. A murder indictment must be tried in the Superior Court ... and the juvenile defendant will be treated in all respects as an adult. If indicted for any other crime, the juvenile defendant would otherwise proceed in the Juvenile Court, with the protections there afforded him." Because the grand jury here was not provided such instructions, the indictment was properly dismissed.

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