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Commonwealth v. Dagraca-Teixeira

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

March 16, 2015

Commonwealth
v.
Jason Dagraca-Teixeira (and a companion case [1] )

Travis J. Jacobs for Jason Dagraca-Teixeira.

Jacob B. Stone for Adilson Teixeira.

Yul-mi Cho, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

OPINION

[26 N.E.3d 742] The defendants, Jason Dagraca-Teixeira (Jason) and Adilson Teixeira (Adilson),

Page 1003

were convicted of possession of heroin, G. L. c. 94C, § 34; [2] unlawful possession of a firearm, G. L. c. 269, § 10 ( h ); and unlawful possession of ammunition, G. L. c. 269, § 10 ( h ) (1). On appeal, the defendants argued, among other things, that the evidence supporting their convictions was insufficient. A panel of the Appeals Court affirmed the convictions. Commonwealth v. Dagraca-Teixeira, 85 Mass.App.Ct. 1126, 10 N.E.3d 670 (2014). We granted the defendants' applications for further appellate review, limited to the issue of the [26 N.E.3d 743] sufficiency of the evidence. See Commonwealth v. Dagraca-Teixeira, 469 Mass. 1110, 20 N.E.3d 612 (2014).

We hold that there was sufficient evidence supporting the convictions of possession of heroin, but that the Commonwealth did not present sufficient evidence to establish possession of the firearms and ammunition beyond a reasonable doubt. We therefore affirm in part and reverse in part.

We review the essential evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. At approximately 11 p.m. on an evening in November, 2011, six Taunton police officers executed a search warrant for a second-floor apartment on Wales Street in Taunton. They entered through an open door and found eight to ten people inside, including Adilson. The officers secured the apartment and its occupants. One of the officers searched Adilson and found $340 in cash in his pocket. While the officers were present, Jason arrived with an unidentified woman. An officer searched him and found $375 in cash and a key.

The search of the apartment included three bedrooms located off a short interior hallway. Jason's key fit the lock of one of the bedrooms. In that bedroom, an officer found a small bag containing a substance believed to be heroin, along with Jason's baptismal certificate, a cellular telephone, and scales. During the search of a second bedroom, another officer found two small bags of what appeared to be the same substance found in the first bedroom, along with twenty-nine dollars in cash, on a table with Adilson's birth certificate and other documents. A woman's jacket was hanging on the door to the bedroom closet. Inside a zippered pocket, in the jacket, officers found $200 in cash and a plastic bag containing ten smaller bags of the same substance as on the table. At trial, the defendants stipulated to the fact that the substance in the various bags found in these bedrooms was heroin. No contraband was found in the third bedroom.

In the ceiling of the common hallway was a small, sealed hatch to an attic. The attic was accessible only through the hatch. To gain entry, one of the officers pushed in the hatch door and was boosted up by the other officers. There was no ladder or pull-down stairs leading to the attic. The officer testified that, on entering the attic, he sat on the edge of the opening. He eventually noticed a small plastic shopping bag wedged between the ceiling joists and the insulation. The officer removed the bag and found that it contained two loaded handguns. He did not testify to finding anything else in the attic.

Possession of heroin.

The Commonwealth presented ample evidence to support the defendants' drug convictions. Their presence in the apartment plus the evidence of their personal documents found in the respective bedrooms, in direct proximity to the heroin, was more than sufficient to establish possession. Commonwealth v. Pratt, 407 Mass. 647, 652, 555 N.E.2d 559 (1990).

Page 1004

Possession of firearms and ammunition.


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