A Boston Criminal Lawyer Discusses Bail Hearing In Woburn Murder Case (Part One)

Nathaniel Fujita (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) has been charged with the Wayland murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lauren Astley (hereinafter, the “Deceased”).

The 18-year-old Defendant has been charged with a number of crimes, including first-degree murder. The case is pending in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. The body of the 18-year-old Deceased was discovered on July 4th off Route 27 in Wayland in a marsh. According to the Commonwealth, she had been strangled and her neck had been slashed.

The Defendant has pleaded “Not Guilty” to the murder charge as well as two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and a single count of assault and battery. He has been held without bail since his arrest.

During the Massachusetts bail hearing, the prosecutor presented a timeline of the events alleged in the days before and after the alleged murder. Part of this timeline was the reading of text messages allegedly between the Defendant and the Deceased. The last of these are said to have taken place shortly before the Deceasd’s death.

According to the Commonwealth, the Deceased had made various telephone calls and sent text messages to the Defendant in an attempt to discuss their situation and, perhaps, salvage a friendship. The prosecutor revealed as follows:

She wanted to talk. They decided to meet after she finished work.

“Call me when you get out,” Fujita wrote.

Astley drove to his house. She parked near the fence so his mother wouldn’t see.
Then she texted him one word: “Here.”

It was the last message that she ever sent.

The Commonwealth sumarized, arguing that “In an act of friendship, [the Deceased] reached out to the defendant… The defendant reciprocated this act of friendship by killing her.”

The Defendant was ordered held without bail until a Septembrt 22 pretrial conference, when his defense attorney plans to push for his release on bail.

Yes, good luck with that!

Attorney Sam’s Take On Texting And Bail Hearings

There are a few issues that are worth reviewing in this case, although, clearly, the matter has but begun its trek through the criminal justice system.

The easiest issue to dispense with is the issue of bail.

As you know, unless the Commonwealth is seeking to hold a defendant without bail because he is considered a danger to the community, the only reason for bail is to make sure that the defendant will return to court to face the charges against him.

The Commonwealth did not move for a “dangerousness hearing” in this case, although it could have. It does not take an experienced Boston criminal lawyer to tell you that the Commonwealth did not so move in this case because there was no need for it to do so.

While, of course, there are exceptions, it is commonplace for a defendant facing murder charges, particularly if said charges are in the first degree, to be held without bail. The reasoning is that the defendant is facing the heaviest of charges and risks the imposition of the highest penalties allowed by law. In Massachusetts state court, there is no death penalty. Therefore, the potential sentence facing the Defendant in this case is life without parole. In fact, if convicted of Murder in the First degree, the sentence is mandatory.

You may be thinking that the evidence of the text messages automatically doom the Defendant to a verdict of “Guilty”.

As most Boston criminal lawyers can tell you, the outcome of a jury trial is never 100% certain until the jury returns with the verdict. Nonetheless, is the Commonwealth can actually prove what it says about the text messages, it will be pretty damning evidence.

“What do you mean “If“? Why would they not be able to prove it?”

Well, there are actually a few evidentiary issues which the Commonwealth will have to hurdle, particularly if facing an experienced criminal attorney on the other side.

“What are they? It seems pretty cut and dry to me.”

Very little is “cut and dry” in the justice system…criminal or civil.

Let’s Continue this discussion in my next blog.

To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/08/24/texts_to_ex_beau_preceded_wayland_slaying/?page=full

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