Heard: March 9, 2017.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
February 6, 2014.
case was tried before James F. Lang, J.
Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the
case from the Appeals Court.
E. Methe for the defendant.
Quentin R. Weld, Assistant District Attorney (Elin H.
Graydon, Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd,
a jury trial, the defendant, Scypio Denton, was convicted of
distribution of heroin, in violation of G. L. c. 94C, §
32 (b). At trial, the defendant raised the
affirmative defense of entrapment. The judge permitted the
Commonwealth to respond by introducing evidence of three
prior convictions, despite the defendant's objection that
they were too stale to be probative of his predisposition to
commit the crime. The defendant's principal argument on
appeal concerns the decision to admit this
evidence. We reverse on that ground.
recite the facts the jury could have found.
December 17, 2013, the defendant was approached by an
undercover police officer posing as a drug
addict. The officer told the defendant he
"was dope sick and . . . looking to get hooked up . . .
because [he] wasn't feeling well." He asked the
defendant for "a forty" of
"brown" and explained that his dealer was not
answering his telephone calls because he owed the dealer
money. At the time of the undercover operation, there was an
unwritten rule among drug users that if somebody was
"dope sick" from heroin withdrawal, another user
would help them to find more heroin, as he or she could
sympathize with the feeling. The officer believed that this
approach for targeting heroin distribution was successful
approximately twenty to thirty per cent of the time.
defendant agreed to help, and they got into an unmarked motor
vehicle driven by another undercover officer. While they were
in the vehicle, the defendant used an officer's cellular
telephone to tell someone that "he wanted to come by and
grab a bag." They then proceeded to a destination the
defendant gave them. When they arrived, an officer gave the
defendant forty dollars and took the defendant's cellular
telephone as collateral. The defendant entered a building and
returned with a bag of a tan powdered substance, which he
gave to ...