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Commonwealth v. Valentin

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Essex

May 12, 2017

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WALTON VALENTIN.

          Heard: February 28, 2017.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on January 2, 2014.

         The cases were tried before Richard E. Welch, III, J.

          Robert L. Sheketoff for the defendant.

          David F. O'Sullivan, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Vuono, Carhart, & Kinder, JJ. [1]

          KINDER, J.

         Following a jury trial in Superior Court, the defendant, Walton Valentin, was convicted of multiple crimes of violence against his former girl friend, whom we shall call Jane.[2] The jury found him guilty of entering a building with intent to commit a felony, G. L. c. 266, § 17; assault by means of a dangerous weapon, G. L. c. 265, § 15B; aggravated assault and battery in violation of a restraining order, G. L. c. 265, § 15A(cO (iii)[3]; assault and battery, G. L. c. 265, § 13A; stalking in violation of a restraining order, G. L. c. 265, § 4 3(b); and violations of a restraining order (twelve counts), G. L. c. 209A, § 7.[4] On appeal, the defendant claims (1) the judge erred in admitting the victim's hearsay statements pursuant to the doctrine of forfeiture of the right of confrontation by wrongdoing; (2) the evidence was insufficient on the charges of stalking, aggravated assault and battery, and entering a building with intent to commit a felony; (3) the judge's instruction on reasonable doubt was error; and (4) the judge abused his discretion in responding to a question from the jury. We affirm.

         Background.

         1. The break-in and assaults.

         We summarize the evidence the jury could have found, viewing it in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378 Mass. 671, 676-677 (1979). On June 24, 2013, Jane obtained a restraining order prohibiting the defendant from contacting or abusing her. The order was in effect through January 7, 2014.

         In October 2013, Jane began staying at the home of her coworker and friend, Susan[5], in Lawrence. On October 28, 2013, Jane and Susan attended a party in Boston. Following the party, in the early morning hours of October 29, they went to the Chau Chow City restaurant in Boston. At approximately 4:00 A.M, the defendant appeared at the restaurant uninvited and confronted Jane.

         After leaving Chau Chow City at approximately 6:00 A.M., Jane and Susan went to a Boston police department (BPD) station to report the contact with the defendant. Jane told the police that the defendant slapped her three times at the restaurant.[6]She further reported that the defendant had "keyed" her car, a statement corroborated, in part, by the officer's observations of marks on the exterior of the vehicle. While they were at the BPD, the defendant called Susan twice looking for Jane.

         Jane and Susan then drove to the Lawrence police department (LPD) where Jane again reported what had occurred at Chau Chow City. She explained that the defendant followed them from Boston to Lawrence. She further reported the telephone calls they had received from the defendant. The calls from the defendant continued while they were at the LPD.

         Jane and Susan left the LPD at approximately 7:30 A.M., returned to Susan's apartment, and went to sleep in the same bedroom. At approximately 9:00 A.M. they were awakened by the defendant emerging from the bedroom closet. A struggle ensued. Susan escaped and screamed to the apartment manager that there was someone in the apartment. Susan pointed to the defendant as he ran through the parking lot.[7] Meanwhile, Jane called 911 and reported "I was here sleeping with a girlfriend, at my girlfriend's house, with my girlfriend, and he came into the house, we don't know how, with a knife, and attacked both of us."[8]

         Police responded within minutes. They observed that the door to the apartment was damaged and the interior of the apartment was in disarray. Broken lamps and pieces of furniture were strewn about, chairs were overturned, and a glass table-top was shattered. There was swelling on the arms and necks of both women. Susan appeared disheveled. She was shaking and crying. She told officers that the defendant appeared at the foot of the bed armed with a knife and that she and Jane had screamed as the defendant made slashing and stabbing motions toward them. Susan also reported that the defendant smashed her head against the wall. Susan handed the officers a large knife she retrieved from a closet near the entry to the apartment, which she claimed the defendant had used.

         Crying hysterically, Jane told the officers that she awakened to see the defendant standing at the foot of the bed with a knife. After Jane calmed down, she explained that the defendant had swung the knife in her direction.[9]-[10] She, too, reported that the defendant grabbed her and slammed her head against the wall. She said the defendant fled the apartment when Susan began screaming for help. Police efforts to locate the defendant that day were unsuccessful.

         2. The alleged abduction.

         On November 9, 2013, police responded to the Parkview Inn in Salem, New Hampshire. They found Jane in one of the rooms. She was crying and had lacerations on her head. She reported that the defendant abducted her at gunpoint as she entered her vehicle in Lawrence. They drove to the Parkview Inn where the defendant directed Jane to pay for a room while he waited in the vehicle. She told the officers that the defendant struck her multiple times with the firearm while they were in the room. Eventually she escaped, and the defendant fled in her vehicle. The next day the vehicle was found parked on the side of the road in Andover, Massachusetts. Five days later, the defendant was arrested in the Bronx, New York.[11]

         Discussion.

         1. Forfeiture by wrongdoing.

         Under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing,

"a defendant forfeits, by virtue of wrongdoing, the right to object to the admission of an unavailable witness's out-of-court statements on both confrontation and hearsay grounds on findings that (1) the witness is unavailable; (2) the defendant was involved in, or responsible for, procuring the unavailability of the witness; and (3) the ...

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