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Commonwealth v. Accime

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

February 13, 2017

COMMONWEALTH
v.
RICHIE ACCIME.

          Heard: November 9, 2016.

         Idle and Disorderly Person. Self-Defense. Practice, Criminal, Instructions to jury.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department on July 19, 2011.

         The case was tried before Annette Forde, J.

          The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review. Jeffrey A. Garland, Committee for Public Counsel Services, for the defendant.

          Donna Jalbert Patalano, Assistant District Attorney (Neil J. Flynn, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the Commonwealth.

          Bettina Toner, Robert D. Fleischner, Jennifer Honig, Chetan Tiwari, & Phillip Kassel, for Center for Public Representation & another, amici curiae, submitted a brief.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.

          BOTSFORD, J.

         The defendant, Richie Accime, appeals from his disorderly conduct conviction under G. L. c. 272, § 53, claiming there was insufficient evidence to support it. The charge was brought against him in relation to his conduct as a patient in the psychiatric area of the emergency department at a hospital in Boston. Accime argues that in the circumstances of this case, the Commonwealth failed to prove he consciously disregarded a "substantial and unjustifiable risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm." Emphasizing the setting-specific inquiry required by our case law, we agree with the defendant and reverse the judgment of conviction.[1]

         1. Background.

         a. Facts.

         Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the jury could have found the following. In the afternoon of June 5, 2011, the defendant was brought by ambulance and against his will to the emergency department of a hospital. There he was involuntarily detained in a small room in the psychiatric area of the hospital's emergency department. Although this detention was purportedly pursuant to G. L. c. 123, § 12 (a.), which allows the temporary restraint and hospitalization of persons posing a serious risk of harm by reason of mental illness, according to the defendant, who testified at trial, he was shown no evidence of compliance with the procedures required by § 12 (a.), nor was any such evidence produced at trial.

         When told he would likely be held in the hospital for two or three days, the defendant began to shout. Medical staff requested assistance from hospital security officers and, on their arrival, instructed the officers not to allow the defendant to leave. At approximately 8 P..M., a security officer called for additional assistance; at least four other security responded. At least one officer was armed with a baton and handcuffs in addition to the pepper spray that was carried by at least three officers.

         The officers attempted to persuade the defendant to take medication that he told them he did not want. Having heard the defendant repeatedly say, "I don't want to take the medication. I want to get out of here, " the officers told him that if he refused to take the medication, he would be restrained, and later, that if he did not comply with orders he would be pepper sprayed.

         In response to the officers' orders, the defendant stated, "I'm not taking any medications. You can't hold me here against my will"; "I don't want to fuck anybody up, but I guarantee I'm leaving one way or the other"; "if anybody puts their hands on me, I'm going to fuck them up"; and "if anybody pepper sprays me I'm going to beat the fuck out of them." Furthermore, when the officers first entered the room, the defendant had said, "The first person in, I'm going to break their arm. And then the next person in, I'm going to break theirs, and then the next, and then the next." Other patients were "looking on"; as a precautionary measure, officers directed anyone in the hallway to an alternate route "just in case something happened if [the confrontation] spilled out" of the room.[2] The officers asked the defendant to calm down, and repeated their request that he accept medication.

         The defendant took his shirt off, [3] and began pacing with clenched fists, hitting the open palm of one hand with the clenched fist of the other. He repeated his desire to leave, insisted no one was going to stop him, and refused to sit on a ...


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