Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex
Heard: January 10, 2017.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on March
cases were tried before Thomas P. Billings, J., and a motion
for a new trial, filed on October 29, 2014, was heard by him.
Stephen Paul Maidman for the defendant.
Michael Charles, Assistant District Attorney (Casey E.
Silvia, Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, & Budd, JJ.
defendant, Robert Gulla, was convicted of murder in the first
degree of the victim on the theories of deliberate
premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. In this appeal,
defendant asserts that he was denied effective assistance of
counsel and a meaningful opportunity to present a complete
defense, as well as denied a fair trial based on the
judge's failure to give certain jury instructions. The
defendant also seeks relief under G. L. c. 278, § 33E.
After full consideration of the record and the
defendant's arguments, we affirm the defendant's
convictions and the denial of his motion for a new trial, and
decline to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to G. L. c.
278, § 33E.
summarize the evidence that the jury could have found,
reserving certain details for discussion of specific issues.
On January 23, 2010, the defendant beat, strangled, stabbed,
and shot the victim, killing her. The victim's homicide
was the culmination of a short but violent relationship
between the two. The defendant met the victim, who was
attending a State university, in early September of 2009 at a
college party; the defendant was not a student there. Soon
thereafter they began a dating relationship.
September 25, 2009, an altercation between the victim and the
defendant in her dormitory led campus police to escort the
defendant off campus and issue a no-trespass order.
Approximately one and one-half weeks later, the victim lodged
a complaint with police after the two had an argument and the
defendant pushed her out of his truck and drove away, leaving
her stranded on the side of the road.
spent less time together after that, and the victim began
dating a fellow student; however, she continued to see the
defendant. One night in early December the victim was
visiting with the defendant at his home where he lived with
his mother and brother. After the two argued loudly, the
defendant punched the victim in the stomach and took her
cellular telephone to review its contents. He later smashed
it and threw it into the woods near his house. The
defendant's mother telephoned the police, and he
subsequently was arrested.
January, 19, 2010, the defendant had an argument via
telephone with the victim because she was spending time with
her fellow student. The victim thereafter applied for and
received a temporary restraining order against the defendant.
the restraining order, three days later, the defendant
borrowed his mother's automobile to pick the victim up
and drive her to his house to spend the night. The next
evening, the defendant's mother found the two of them
covered in blood lying face down, side by side on the floor
of the defendant's basement bedroom. First responders
determined that the victim was deceased: her body was
severely bruised and swollen, and she had several stab
wounds, including to her throat. The injuries to her face,
including bruises and a pellet gunshot wound between the
eyes, rendered her unrecognizable. By contrast, the defendant
regained consciousness and his wounds were less severe. He
had a large cut on his left wrist and a pellet gunshot wound
to the temple, consistent with self-inflicted wounds; he also
had superficial cuts on his hand, consistent with forceful
stabbing motions, and an area at the back ...