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Renaud v. Commonwealth

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

April 17, 2015

Ronald Renaud
v.
Commonwealth

Argued March 3, 2015.

Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on May 16, 2013.

A motion to dismiss was heard by Thomas A. Connors, J.

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

Jeffrey T. Collins, Assistant Attorney General, for the Commonwealth.

Timothy St. Lawrence for the defendant.

Stephanie Roberts Hartung & Drew Glassroth, for New England Innocence Project & another, amici curiae, submitted a brief.

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

OPINION

[28 N.E.3d 479] Hines, J.

After a jury-waived trial in the District Court, a judge found the plaintiff, Ronald Renaud, guilty of malicious destruction of property, breaking and entering in the daytime, and larceny over $250. On appeal, the Appeals Court overturned Renaud's convictions, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to support them.[1] See Commonwealth v. Renaud, 81 Mass.App.Ct. 261, 263, 265, 961 N.E.2d 1102 (2012). Renaud thereafter filed a complaint in the Superior Court under G. L. c. 258D, the erroneous convictions statute, seeking compensation for his erroneous convictions. The Commonwealth moved to dismiss the complaint,

Page 316

which a judge denied,[2] and the Commonwealth appealed. See Irwin v. Commonwealth, 465 Mass. 834, 835, 992 N.E.2d 275 (2013) (" Because the erroneous convictions statute provides only a limited waiver on the Commonwealth's sovereign immunity, we conclude that the doctrine of present execution applies to claims brought under that statute, and thus that interlocutory appeal is appropriate" ). We transferred the case here on our own initiative to determine whether, under G. L. c. 258D, § 1 (B), the reversal of Renaud's convictions due to insufficient evidence amounts to " grounds which tend to establish" his innocence, thus rendering him eligible to obtain relief under the statute. We conclude that it does. We therefore affirm the denial of the motion to dismiss.

Background and prior proceedings.[3]

The relevant facts, as introduced by the Commonwealth before it closed its case, are that a break-in occurred in a Falmouth home. Renaud, 81 Mass.App.Ct. at 262. Four television sets, a digital video disc player, and items of sports memorabilia were missing. Id. No one was seen perpetrating the break-in or stealing the property from the home. Id. While examining the living room after being called to the scene, a police officer recovered from the floor an electronic bank transfer (EBT) card bearing the name of the plaintiff. Id. The EBT card [28 N.E.3d 480] had been cut into three separate pieces and was taped together. Id. The owner of the home and the residents thereof ...


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