Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MATTAPAN MASSACRE JURY MAY BE ABOUT TO DELIVER A MIXED VERDICT IN MURDER MATTER

Last week, the jury in the Mattapan Massacre Murder Matter began its deliberations.

Yesterday, they announced that they had reached a decision. Sort of.

The jury charged with deciding the case against the two men accused in the 2010 Mattapan massacre (hereinafter, the “Defendants”) has reached a verdict on 10 of the 19 charges submitted to it. However, they claim to be deadlocked on the remaining 9. According to the Commonwealth, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christine McEvoy sent the jury home for the rest of the day, but they are to return this morning. The judge is likely to give the jurors additional jury instructions that are reserved for this type of situation.

The verdicts that have been decided have been sealed and not published.

You must know the story of the Mattapan Massacre by now. The Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog spent a great deal of time on it last week. Basically, it is called one of the worst homicides in the city’s recent history. In what is described as a drug deal gone sour, four people were killed on September 28, 2010. Two of these people were a mother and her 2-year-old son. A Fifth person was shot and seriously injured.

The Commonwealth’s star witness was a gentleman (hereinafter, the “Gentleman”) who admitted to being one of three guys, the Defendants being the other two, who went to rob the victims who ended up being shot. He claimed to have left , though, before the shooting began. The Commonwealth made a deal with the Gentleman to testify for it against the Defendants in return for a deal which saved him from facing life in prison without the chance for parole. Of course, other evidence in the case , including physical evidence, seemed to refute the Gentleman’s testimony…but that did not seem to disturb the Commonwealth.

After all, the Gentleman said he was not there for the shooting…and, heck almighty man, why would he fib? He may have even promised…!

Of course, that is a dead horse that we kicked pretty well during the trial.

While the jury have not asked any questions, they did request a printed copy of Judge Christine McEvoy’s legal instructions for deliberations.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Mistrials And Mixed Verdicts

Ok, first of all, what do we know about yesterday’s jury development?

We know that all 12 jurors have unanimously agreed on either guilt or the absence thereof on most (by one) of the charges submitted to them. We do not know which counts they have decided nor what said decisions are. In fact, we do not even know if those verdicts are all the same. Some could be “guilty” and some could be “not guilty”.

But we know that this jury is not a jury who simply cannot come to a decision. They have come to 10 of them…unanimously.

“Sam, how do we know the decisions were unanimous?”

Because they would not be verdicts if they weren’t. In order for there to be a verdict, the decision, whether “guilty” or “not guilty”, must be unanimous.

“Is it unusual for the jury to reach some of the issues submitted to it and not others?”

Somewhat. What usually happens, and what will likely happen in this case, the judge gives additional instructions aimed at getting the jurors to keep trying. Usually, they end up coming back with the verdicts. In this case, one could read the mixed results of yesterday two potential ways.

One possibility is that, since we see that the jurors can work together to some extent, they will be able to push through. On the other hand, it could be that the jurors have strained to come to a joint decision as hard as they can and they simply cannot agree on the remaining charges.

If I had to guess, I would say they will probably come back with a verdict…probably some time today. Maybe tomorrow. Ok, maybe the next day.

“What if the jurors end up deadlocked on those remaining charges?”

Then the judge will have to declare a mistrial on those remaining charges and there may be another trial as to them.

“What about the counts they have already decided?”

Those verdicts will stand. However, the fact of the split results will likely be an issue in any appeal.

“Who can appeal?”

Only the Defendants. If the verdicts are “not guilty”, the Commonwealth cannot appeal those results.

“Is there anything else we can read into today’s development?”

Yes. We know that at least one juror has at least one reasonable doubt in the remaining charges. And that is all it takes.

“If the jury cannot reach a decision on the remaining counts, will the Commonwealth likely re-try them even after the decided counts are released?”

That depends. Believe it or not, that is not such a simple decision on either side. For example, if those verdicts that have been sealed contain convictions, then the decision of whether to make a deal with the Commonwealth is a tough one. When one pleads guilty, one waives the right to appeal. So, depending on how the verdicts play out, it might not be worth it to plead guilty to any part of this case.

We also have to keep in mind that the different counts carry different penalties. If the Defendants are found guilty of the murder charges, then they are already looking at life without parole, so there is not too much left to lose.

I am personally curious if the verdicts returned are connected on the Gentleman’s testimony. For example, the message is clear if all the counts that do not simply rely on the Gentleman’s testimony are convictions and anything that is tied to his credibility is an acquittal.

This would make some sense to me. Unfortunately, its message will likely be lost on the Commonwealth.

Don’t worry, we will find ourselves back here again.

For the original story upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/Boston/metrodesk/2012/03/mattapan-massacre-jury-its-fourth-day-deliberations-quadruple-murder-trial/iMyB15BdaaXq3EXuWOYzhI/index.html

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