The Boston Housing Authority has had to close a nine-unit building for repairs, displacing nine families after three men allegedly set fire to a unit at the Bunker Hill housing development this week. The police say that the intended victims escaped through a window. Boston firefighters extinguished the two-alarm fire, but also had to rescue second-floor residents who were trapped by heavy smoke and fire.
Thankfully, no serious injuries were reported. According to the BHA, the families have been at hotels while the new apartments for them are sought. In the meantime, the families are being aided by the Red Cross.
James Burrell and Dashaun Lanair James, both 32 and of Charlestown, and Daniel Grayson, 28, of Roxbury, (hereinafter, collectively, the “Defendants”) have been charged with the blaze and have pleaded not guilty to arson of a dwelling and other related charges.
Bail was set at $150,000 for Burrell, $85,000 for James, and $50,000 for Grayson.
The Commonwealth believes that the arson was committed in connection with a drug debt. According to police, Burrell had been arguing with a man over said drug debt. Then, police say, the Defendants were standing in a hallway of the building shortly after midnight when a flammable liquid was poured under a unit’s door. Burrell is said to have ignited the liquid and then the Defendants all allegedly ran into a neighboring apartment building on Decatur Street.
Inside his apartment in that building, police found Burrell in his bed.
Tipped by a “concerned community member,” police also found James and Grayson inside a vehicle which had been spotted driving away from Decatur Street.
While not as common as assault, arson is a crime that any experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney has had to deal with.
The crime is treated particularly seriously when the fire caused was in a residence. It is also one of those felonies where, if someone dies from the fire, said death is considered foreseeable. Therefore, “I didn’t think anybody was home” is not a defense.
The charge would be murder.
Because such fires are rarely set in front of an audience, the evidence is these cases tends to be fairly circumstantial and scientific. After all, the prosecution needs to prove not only that the defendant committed the crime, but that a crime was committed at all.
In the instant case, there is clearly much more that the police suspect than has been released. For example, why were the Defendants named at all? Did someone allegedly overhear the drug money argument? Why would the two defendants in the car be suspected? Why was their car noticed?
After all, it is not unusual for two men to be in a car together. It is not suspicious that a man would be in his bed in his own apartment at night.
Because this evidence is likely to be eyewitness testimony, it presents even more issues for the prosecution. For example, since the informant seems to know the people involved, could he have some vendetta against these defendants? Was he part of the drug trade? Finally, could he have started the fire and pinned it on the Defendants?
This would not be the first time that such actions were taken to eliminate debts or competition in the drug trade.
A key item the Commonwealth will be looking to will be whether the scientific evidence is consistent with what the witness says.
If not…they will have to choose.
Choosing under such circumstances tends to have the odor of reasonable doubt about it.
As with any type of criminal case, you want an experienced defense attorney to aid you if you are accused. If you want to discuss such a matter with me, feel free to call me for a free initial consultation. I can be reached at t 617-492-3000.
To view the original story on which this blog were based, please go to : http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/02/09/3_held_as_ars