Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth
Heard: March 10, 2017.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
October 21, 2010.
case was tried before Charles J. Hely, J., and a motion for a
new trial, filed on June 16, 2014, was heard by him.
Elizabeth Caddick for the defendant.
L. Gauthier, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Hines, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.
August, 2010, the victim, Lorraine Wachsman, was stabbed to
death. A jury in the Superior Court found the defendant
guilty of murder in the first degree on theories of
deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The
defendant appeals from her conviction and from the denial of
her motion for a new trial.
defendant asserts several claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel, centering on trial counsel's failure to consult
with a mental health expert regarding (1) a defense of mental
impairment, including impeaching the Commonwealth's
mental health expert; (2) the suppression of statements made
by the defendant during two police interviews; and (3) the
defendant's competency to stand trial. Although we
conclude that trial counsel erred by failing to consult with
a mental health expert, the error does not require reversal
of the defendant's conviction. See Commonwealth v.
Nolin, 448 Mass. 207, 220 (2007); Commonwealth
v. Wright, 411 Mass. 678, 682 (1992), S.C.,
469 Mass. 447 (2104). We also decline to grant relief under
G. L. c. 278, § 33E.
recite the facts the jury could have found in the light most
favorable to the Commonwealth, reserving certain details for
our analysis of the issues.
defendant, who was prescribed medication for bipolar
disorder, and who had a history of substance abuse, came to
know the victim through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The
defendant and the victim had a strained relationship for some
time leading up to the victim's death. The victim was
close with the defendant's former longtime girl friend
and acted as the girl friend's AA "sponsor."
The defendant blamed the victim for the defendant's
romantic relationship with the girl friend ending in early
2010. Even before the events leading to the end of her
romantic relationship with the girl friend, the defendant
harbored resentment toward the victim. According to the
defendant, the victim prevented her from visiting a sick
mutual friend in the hospital, prior to that friend's
night before the victim's death, the defendant telephoned
the victim and arranged to meet her the following morning.
That night, the defendant wrote on her page on the Web site
Facebook, "Tic toe, tic toe. I'm going to finish my
book tomorrow. You're all going to be real interested in
it because you're all in it. The title is Tormented Minds
by Eunice Field." At around the same time, the defendant
wrote a note, addressed to the former girl friend, which
stated that the victim would "get what she deserves for
coming between you and me, " and that she had
"snapped" because of her bipolar disorder.
defendant traveled to the victim's apartment in
Bridgewater on the morning of August 9, 2010, and killed the
victim by stabbing her nine times with a knife in the neck,
chest and back. After killing the victim, the defendant drove
herself to the Brockton police station. When she arrived, she
remained in her motor vehicle. Officers found the defendant,
complaining of chest pain. As they helped the defendant out
of her automobile, they saw that she was covered in blood.
After being asked about the blood, the defendant stated that
she had just killed someone.
defendant was brought into the police station and seated on a
bench in the lobby, where she repeated that she had killed
someone, and when asked, gave the victim's name. She also
provided the officers with the name of the apartment complex
in which the victim lived. The defendant was taken to an
interview room. She was read the Miranda rights, and she
responded that she understood them and that she ...