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Commonwealth v. Stevenson

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Dukes

May 25, 2016

Commonwealth
v.
Carlos G. Stevenson

         Argued February 11, 2016.

          Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on October 6, 2014.

         A motion to dismiss the indictments was heard by Cornelius J. Moriarty, II, J.

          Elizabeth A. Sweeney, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Janice Bassil ( John E. Oh with her) for the defendant.

         The following submitted briefs for amici curiae.

          Wendy J. Murphy for Women's and Children's Advocacy Project at New England Law Boston.

          Kevin J. Curtin, Assistant District Attorney, for District Attorneys for the Berkshire, Bristol, Eastern, Middle, Norfolk, Northern, Northwestern, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Western Districts.

          John J. Barter & Chauncey B. Wood for Committee for Public Counsel Services & another.

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

          OPINION

          Cordy, J.

          [50 N.E.3d 185] On October 6, 2014, a grand jury returned six indictments against the defendant, Carlos Stevenson: one charging aggravated rape of a child with force, G. L. c. 265, § 22B; and five charging indecent assault and battery on a child under the age

Page 373

of fourteen, G. L. c. 265, § 13B.[1] The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictments, arguing, as is relevant to this appeal, that the evidence presented to the grand jury was insufficient because the Commonwealth offered only hearsay testimony from a single witness, the investigating officer.

         After a hearing, a judge of the Superior Court allowed the defendant's motion to dismiss without prejudice. The judge concluded that, while an indictment generally may be based solely on hearsay, the Commonwealth's exclusive reliance on such testimony in the present case constituted " extraordinary circumstances" that justified dismissal of the indictments. In particular, the judge determined that " there was no good reason for [the complainant] not to testify," and the prosecutor's decision not to seek her testimony deprived the defendant of the opportunity to obtain pretrial discovery.[2]

         The Commonwealth appealed the dismissal, and we granted the defendant's application for direct appellate review. We conclude that this case does not present an extraordinary circumstance warranting a variance from our general approval of indictments that are returned on the basis of hearsay testimony. Therefore, the order of the Superior Court is reversed.[3]

          [50 N.E.3d 186] 1. Evidence presented at the grand jury proceedings.

          The testimony presented before the grand jury came exclusively through one witness: the lead investigating officer on the case, Detective Mark Santon of the Tisbury police department. That evidence included the following.

         On May 22, 2014, a lieutenant with the West Tisbury police department contacted Santon. The lieutenant informed Santon that the complainant's boy friend reported to the West Tisbury police that the complainant had, years before, been a victim of sexual assault. Santon interviewed the ...


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