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Commonwealth v. Amran

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

April 30, 2015

Asim Amran

Argued February 6, 2015.

[As Modified on May 22, 2015.]

Indictment found and returned in the Superior Court Department on November 20, 2009.

Page 355

The case was tried before Janet Kenton-Walker, J.

Leslie W. O'Brien for the defendant.

Stephen J. Carley, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

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


[29 N.E.3d 190] Spina, J.

The defendant was convicted of killing his wife with deliberate premeditation. On appeal he alleges error in (1) the admission of photographs prejudicially depicting the victim's body in an advanced state of decomposition, and lacking any relevance to any issue at trial; (2) the failure to grant a mistrial after the medical examiner testified that the victim's death was a homicide, when the defense was that it was a suicide; (3) the admission of the defendant's statement to police with no redactions of (i) inadmissible accusations by police, (ii) assertions that police had inculpatory evidence that was not presented to the jury, and (iii) hearsay; and (4) the failure to conduct a voir dire of jurors after at least one juror had been exposed to prejudicial extraneous material. We affirm the conviction and decline to exercise our powers under G. L. c. 278, § 33E.

1. Background.

The jury could have found the following facts. We reserve additional details for discussion of particular issues. The defendant and the victim were married in Pakistan in 2003 or 2004. The marriage was arranged by the defendant's family. Shortly after the marriage, the defendant, an American citizen, returned to the United States with the victim. She spoke no English and did not drive. She was entirely dependent on the defendant's family for companionship and transportation. The couple had a son with whom the victim was very close.

The couple came under stress after the defendant lost a lucrative job. They began [29 N.E.3d 191] arguing and discussed separating. In 2008, their financial circumstances forced them to move to an apartment owned by the defendant's parents in Fitchburg. That year the defendant obtained employment as a staff nurse at a nursing home in Tewksbury. One of his responsibilities included administering medications, including morphine, to residents of the nursing home. The system used by the nursing home to account for medicating residents did not track the actual administration of the medications. That is, it did not account for a staff member who kept the medication rather than give it to the resident.

During the fall of 2008 the defendant met a woman, Sara, at a Worcester nightclub. After about one month they started a relationship. He occasionally stayed at her apartment, and he began supporting her. The defendant's wife learned of his affair, and

Page 356

their marriage further deteriorated. She confided in her sister-in-law, with whom she was close, often crying, and expressing feelings of depression and a desire to take her own life. She contacted a homeopathic doctor in Virginia.

On December 31, 2008, Sara told the defendant that he had to choose between her and the victim by the end of that day. He went home, where he and the victim argued. After, he left and took their three year old son with him. They went to Sara's apartment. He told Sara, who had a young son of her own, " That's your son. You have two kids now." The defendant stayed at Sara's apartment that night. When she awoke he was gone. She reached him by telephone. He told her the victim was drunk and he was taking care of her. At about noon Sara again telephoned him. He said he was on his way, but it would take some time because of a bad storm. He arrived at Sara's apartment at about 4:30 p.m. The defendant said the victim had gone to his aunt's house in Virginia.

On January 2 or 3, 2009, one of the defendant's brothers learned that the victim was missing. Some of her relatives had been concerned and tried unsuccessfully to contact her. The defendant's brother went to the defendant's and victim's apartment and saw " a lot of stuff moved around." On January 4 a Fitchburg police detective went to the defendant's apartment to investigate a missing persons report concerning the defendant's wife and son. He noticed the apartment was neat, with the exception of the den, which was in total disarray. The detective asked the defendant to come to the police station for an interview. Later that day the defendant went to the Fitchburg police station with his son. He told the detective he and his wife were constantly arguing, and she had left him. He said she had gone to Virginia.

The defendant gave several inconsistent accounts of his wife's absence to various people. He told one brother she had moved to Florida and he would join her in the near future. He told another brother that she disappeared and he had no idea where she was. He told an investigator with the Department of Children and Families that his wife had left him for another man around January 1 and her family suspected she was in Virginia. The victim's ...

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