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Commonwealth v. Ramos

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Essex

February 26, 2015

Commonwealth
v.
Alex Ramos

Argued: November 4, 2014

Indictment found and returned in the Superior Court Department on May 2, 2007.

A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Howard J. Whitehead, J., and the case was tried before David A. Lowy, J.

The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

Judgment affirmed.

Todd C. Pomerleau for the defendant.

Quentin Weld, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

Present: Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.

OPINION

Duffly, J.

[25 N.E.3d 851] The defendant was indicted on a charge of receiving a stolen motor vehicle, G. L. c. 266, § 28; a codefendant was

Page 741

indicted on charges of receiving a stolen motor vehicle and of receiving stolen property with a value exceeding $250. The defendant sought to suppress evidence seized as a result of a warrantless search of his garage. A Superior Court judge, who was not the trial judge, denied the motion, concluding that the warrantless search of the defendant's garage was permissible due to exigent circumstances, and also that the search was permissible under what he termed an " accomplice sweep" exception to the warrant requirement, a concept that has not been adopted in the Commonwealth. Following a joint trial, a Superior Court jury convicted the defendant and acquitted the codefendant. The defendant [25 N.E.3d 852] appealed, and we transferred the case to this court on our own motion.

On appeal, the defendant claims error in the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized during the warrantless search of his garage, and the admission in evidence of inculpatory statements made during recorded telephone conversations between the defendant and the codefendant. Additionally, the defendant argues that the Commonwealth's evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We conclude that there was no error in the denial of the defendant's motion to suppress because police entry into the garage was justified based on exigent circumstances, there was no error in the admission of recordings of the jailhouse telephone calls, and the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant's conviction.

Evidence at trial.

We summarize the facts the jury could have found, reserving additional facts for our discussion of the issues. On the morning of April 8, 2007, Derek Lam noticed that his blue Honda Civic automobile was missing from the driveway of his fiancé e's house in Natick. He contacted police to have the LoJack transmitter[1] in the vehicle activated. Officer Robert Avery of the Lynn police department was on patrol in his police cruiser when, shortly after noon, he received a LoJack signal. Other officers used their LoJack units to assist him in pinpointing the location of the

Page 742

signal, a detached garage behind a house located at the corner of Gardiner and Florence Streets in Lynn. The house fronted on Gardiner Street, and the two-bay garage doors opened onto Florence Street. The yard between the house and the garage was enclosed by a stockade fence. Along the Florence Street side of the yard, the fence ran from the garage to the back of the house; on the other side of the yard, a stockade fence ran from Gardiner Street to Florence Street along the property line between the defendant's house and the house next door.

Avery parked his cruiser on Florence Street near the two-bay garage doors. When he got out of his cruiser, he could hear noises, like metal tools being used, coming from behind one of the garage doors. One of the overhead garage doors was open about three inches at the bottom. Avery approached the garage door and, after knocking and announcing, " Lynn Police," he could hear the sound of tools dropping and people running. Avery saw three men run from the back of the garage and through the back yard to the rear porch of the house; they were taken into custody immediately. After surrounding the property and obtaining a search warrant, officers found the defendant hiding inside the house. Police found the blue Honda Civic inside the garage, where the defendant, the codefendant, and two other men had been stripping its engine and various other parts.

Discussion.

1. Motion to ...


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