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08/25/78 COMMONWEALTH v. ALBERT LITTLE

August 25, 1978

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ALBERT LITTLE



Bristol. Indictment found and returned in the Superior Court on June 30, 1975. The case was tried before Dwyer, J.

Hennessey, C.j., Quirico, Braucher, Liacos, & Abrams, JJ.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Evidence, Contradiction of witness, State of mind. Practice, Criminal, Instructions to jury, Assistance of counsel.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hennessey

There was no merit in a defendant's contention that his conviction of murder should be reversed because of certain remarks in the prosecutor's opening statement. [237-238]

At a criminal trial, the Judge did not err in admitting prior inconsistent statements of two witnesses to impeach their credibility even though the witnesses were not given the opportunity to explain the inconsistencies where each witness denied having made the prior statement. [238]

At a murder trial, the Judge did not err in allowing a witness to testify that two years earlier the defendant had pistol-whipped him as a lesson to the victim where the evidence was relevant to show the defendant's state of mind toward the victim. [238]

At a murder trial, there was sufficient evidence to warrant a finding that the defendant was guilty. [238]

At a criminal trial, there was no error in the Judge's instructions to the jury relative to determining the credibility of witnesses and relative to the defendant's alibi defense, the Commonwealth's burden of proof, and evidence of consciousness of guilt. [239-240]

The record of a criminal case did not support the defendant's claim that he was denied effective assistance of counsel even though his trial counsel testified in support of the defendant's motion for a new trial that his personal problems and medication he had been taking interfered with his handling of the case. [240-242]

The defendant Albert Little was indicted for the murder of Normand Blanchette, who was found shot to death in New Bedford in the early morning hours of June 12, 1975. After a six-day trial in the Superior Court, a jury found Little guilty of murder in the first degree. The defendant's assignments of error are here pursuant to G. L. c. 278, §§ 33A-33G. We conclude that there was no error.

About 12:30 a.m. on June 12, 1975, police found Blanchette's body slumped in the driver's seat of a pickup truck, which was parked at the side of a road in an industrial area with its engine running and its lights on. The Commonwealth presented a circumstantial case against Little, and the jury were warranted in finding the following facts based on the Commonwealth's evidence.

Blanchette was Little's brother-in-law. He had married the defendant's sister Barbara in 1967, and in 1972 the relationship began to break down. Barbara Blanchette suspected her husband of "running around with other women," as she testified at trial. The couple quarreled frequently, and Barbara occasionally sought her brother's intervention in these quarrels.

The evidence warranted a finding that Blanchette and Little did not get along and that Little had threatened to kill Blanchette. Little had another sister, Linda, and the threat to Blanchette came in 1973 when Little had intervened in a personal dispute on Linda's behalf. One Earl Mayes testified that he had been keeping company with Linda Little in 1973, but that the two had parted company after a spat. Shortly thereafter, the defendant and another man confronted Mayes, took him to the Blanchette home, and beat him with a pistol. Mayes testified that Blanchette arrived home shortly after the beating and saw Mayes lying on the kitchen floor with his face bleeding. Thereon Little told Blanchette: "ee what happened to this guy, the only difference between this is that you are going to be buried. . . . If you don't stop screwing around on my sister." The evidence tended to show that this hostility ...


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