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Commonwealth v. Beal

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

May 24, 2016

COMMONWEALTH
v.
DAUNTE BEAL. [1]

          Heard Date December 10, 2015.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on November 14, 2 008, and January 30, 2 009. The cases were tried before Thomas E. Connolly, J.

         The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.

          Jessica L. LaClair for the defendant.

          Teresa K. Anderson, Assistant District Attorney (Joseph F. Janezic, III, Assistant District Attorney, with her) for the Commonwealth.

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

          DUFFLY, J.

         This case arises from a shooting that occurred at a cookout in the Dorchester section of Boston on a summer night in 2008. The defendant was convicted by a Superior Court jury on indictments charging unlawful possession of a firearm, G. L. c. 269, § 10 (a.); unlawful possession of ammunition, G. L. c. 269, § 10 (h); carrying a loaded firearm, G. L. c. 269, § 10 (n); assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury, G. L. c. 265, § 15A; and two counts of assault by means of a dangerous weapon, G. L. c. 265, § 15B (b).[2] The indictments charging unlawful possession of a firearm also alleged that the defendant previously had been convicted of two violent crimes and thus was subject to enhanced penalties under the Massachusetts armed career criminal act, G. L. c. 269, § 10G (ACCA). In a separate trial following these convictions, the same jury found the defendant guilty of the subsequent offender portions of the indictments.

         The defendant appealed from his convictions, and we allowed his application for direct appellate review. The defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to prove assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury; (2) the convictions of two counts of assault by means of a dangerous weapon were duplicative of the conviction of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury; and (3) the conviction of possession of ammunition is duplicative of the conviction of possession of a loaded firearm. He also contends that the evidence presented by the Commonwealth in support of his prior convictions was insufficient to establish that he had committed a "violent crime, " and therefore he cannot be convicted under the subsequent offender portion of the indictments. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

         1. Background.

         We summarize the facts the jury could have found, reserving additional facts for later discussion. On the night of the shooting, Joao Pereira, the shooting victim, and his brother, Ovidio Pereira, [3] were celebrating a friend's birthday at a cookout at a house on Howard Avenue in Dorchester. As some of the guests were standing on the front porch, a man who was walking past the house on the opposite side of the street said to "Nelito, " one of the partygoers, "Oh, what are you looking at?" Nelito responded, "Oh, you are looking at me, I'm just looking at you." The man continued walking down the street, but returned with another man, who asked Joao if he "[had] a problem." The two men eventually walked away and had a conversation with two other men in a Toyota Corolla automobile that was driving past. The Toyota continued up the street, turned around, and stopped in front of the house where the cookout was taking place. By that time, there were approximately eight people standing in front of the house, and another round of verbal exchanges occurred between the occupants of the Toyota and the guests at the party.

         As the vehicle idled in the street, the driver said, "Oh, you guys are still looking at us funny." Joao responded, "Nobody's looking at you, " to which the driver retorted, "Oh, if you keep looking at me funny, I'm going to get out the car and slap you." Joao replied, "You don't have no right to slap nobody." Joao and another partygoer then threw beer bottles at the Toyota; one bottle hit the driver in the head and another bottle broke the rear side window on the driver's side.

         The driver, later identified as the defendant, [4] got out of the vehicle, aimed a gun at the group on the porch, and fired two shots. The partygoers scattered in different directions. Joao and Ovidio ran to the back of the house with the defendant chasing after them; they tried to get inside, but the door was locked. They ran back to the front porch where the defendant, standing on the first step, fired several more shots at them. One bullet struck Joao in the lower back.

         The defendant ran back to the Toyota and jumped in, and the vehicle sped away. Police responded to a 911 call that had been placed by a neighbor, who had seen the events unfold from his bedroom window. Shortly thereafter, the defendant was arrested at his house. He was bleeding from the side of his head, and had dried blood on his hands and face. The defendant's mother provided police with a key to the Toyota that the defendant had given her.[5] Investigating officers found a firearm on the floor of the Toyota and broken glass scattered throughout the vehicle. Swabs of reddish brown stains were collected from the firearm, the ground in front of the Howard Avenue house, and the floor of an apartment the defendant had visited shortly before his arrest. Tests performed on the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that was recovered from these locations included the defendant as a possible contributor to each of the samples.[6]

         The defendant testified in his own defense and admitted to having been in the Toyota on the night of the shooting, but claimed that another occupant of the vehicle had fired the shots. In support of this contention, the defendant asserted that he was not wearing the white T-shirt and dark baseball hat that a witness testified the shooter had been wearing.

         At the close of the Commonwealth's case and again at the close of all the evidence, the defendant filed motions for required findings of not guilty; the motions were denied. After the jury returned their verdicts, a trial was conducted on the subsequent offender portion of the indictments. The same jury heard evidence that the defendant previously had been convicted, pursuant to his guilty pleas, of assault and battery upon a public employee and assault and battery. Certified copies of these convictions were introduced, and the defendant stipulated that he was the individual who had been convicted of those crimes. After the Commonwealth rested, the defendant filed a motion for a required finding, arguing that the Commonwealth had failed to establish that both prior offenses constituted "violent crimes" within the meaning of the ACCA. The judge denied the motion, and the jury found him guilty.

         2. Sufficiency of the evidence of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon resulting in serious bodily injury.

         We review the denial of a motion for a required finding to determine whether "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378 Mass. 671, 677 (1979), quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979) . The defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon resulting in serious bodily injury, G. L. c. 265, § 15A (c0 (i), because the Commonwealth did not introduce testimony from Joao, testimony from medical personnel who treated his injuries, or his medical records.

         "Serious bodily injury" means "bodily injury which results in a permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a bodily function, limb or organ, or a substantial risk of death." G. L. c. 265, § 15A (d) .[7] We have said that "impairment of a limb occurs when, because of significant damage to its structure, its capacity to perform its usual function is compromised." Commonwealthv.Scott, 464 Mass. 355, 359 (2013) . Clearly, "the loss of a limb . . . would have a substantial impact on a victim on a par with injuries causing permanent disfigurement or risking death." I_d. But the impairment "need not be ...


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