Heard: September 8, 2017.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
February 15, 2013.
case was tried before Constance M. Sweeney, J.
S. Crouch for the defendant.
Katherine E. McMahon, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Budd, & Kafker, JJ.
January, 1991, the victim was found lying across her bed,
with her face covered in blood, at a housing complex for the
elderly in Springfield. She had been sexually assaulted and
severely beaten. An autopsy determined that she had suffered
numerous broken bones in her face, sternum, and ribs, and
that she died as a result of blunt force trauma. Police
interviewed individuals who knew the victim and also
employees who worked at the complex, including maintenance,
nursing, and cleaning staff. The defendant, who was a
part-time maintenance worker there, was one of those
interviewed. No arrests were made, and no suspect was
2012, Springfield police reopened the investigation. They
sought to interview men, including the defendant, who had had
access to the housing complex and to collect deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA) samples from them. Investigators visited the
defendant at his place of employment, and he consented to the
taking of a DNA sample. Approximately one month later, test
results indicated that the defendant's DNA matched the
DNA profile from sperm found in the victim's body. The
defendant was arrested and indicted on charges of murder in
the first degree and aggravated rape. At trial, the Commonwealth
proceeded on theories of deliberate premeditation, extreme
atrocity or cruelty, and felony-murder with aggravated rape
as the predicate felony. A Superior Court jury found the
defendant guilty of murder in the first degree on all three
appeal, the defendant argues that the prosecutor presented
arguments and asked the jury to draw inferences from facts
that had been excluded from their consideration; made
multiple misstatements of fact in her closing argument;
suggested that she had personal knowledge of the case beyond
the evidence that had been presented to the jury; argued in a
manner designed to appeal to the jury's emotions and
inflame the jury; and propounded medical theories based on
facts that were not in evidence and were, at best, entirely
speculative. The defendant contends that, as a result, a new
trial is required. In addition, the defendant maintains that
his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to
the improper statements in the prosecutor's closing. The
defendant also asks us to use our extraordinary power under
G. L. c. 278, § 33E, to reduce the verdict. For the
reasons that follow, we affirm the conviction and decline to
exercise our authority to grant relief under G. L. c. 278,
recite the facts the jury could have found, reserving some
facts for later discussion of particular issues.
Discovery of the victim's body.
Sunday, January 20, 1991, the victim's daughter-in-law
went to the victim's apartment because the victim
unexpectedly had not attended church services. The
daughter-in-law entered the apartment and called for the
victim, but received no reply. When she inserted her key in
the front door lock, she noticed that the door felt unlocked.
After looking through the living room, dining room, and
kitchen, she also noticed that the back door was ajar, being
held open by the deadbolt that was touching the doorjamb.
bathroom, she found the victim's purse, wet, in the sink,
and a towel in the toilet. Finally, she found the victim dead
in the bedroom. The victim was lying face up with her head at
the foot of the bed; her face was covered in blood, and her
head was in a pool of blood on a pillow. The victim's
nightgown had been pushed up above her waist; her lower body
was naked and her blood-stained underwear was on the floor
near the bed.
scene investigators later found blood on the bathroom wall,
and blood spatters on the wall, dresser, and curtains in the
bedroom. They also found evidence of blood in the drains in
the kitchen and bathroom sinks, and copious amounts of blood
on the victim's face and hands and on the bedding.
autopsy showed that the victim died of blunt trauma from
multiple injuries to her head and chest. Her nose was
dislocated and broken, and seven other bones in her face were
broken. There was bleeding from a head injury under her
scalp, as well as injuries to her neck muscles that were not
evident externally; part of her larynx had been crushed, and
there was blood in her mouth and lungs. She also had four
broken ribs and a broken sternum. Her ribs had been broken by
blunt force trauma. There were hemorrhages in her eyes that
were consistent with strangulation.
addition, there was a tear in her vaginal wall caused by
blunt force and bleeding in her anal cavity. The medical
examiner took samples from a vaginal swab, an
anorectal swab, and a perianal swab for an evidence
found no sign of forced entry into the apartment, and
officers conducted the investigation on the theory that
either the victim knew her assailant or the assailant had had
a key. They interviewed people who had known the victim and
employees at the apartment complex and assisted living
center. The defendant was on the list of employees
to be interviewed because he was a part-time maintenance
worker at the complex and had specific duties in the
January 21, 1991, officers went to the defendant's house
and asked him if he would come with them to the police
station to assist with their investigation of a death of one
of the residents at the apartment complex for the elderly.
The defendant agreed to accompany them to the police station
and speak with the officers; he was driven there in a police
cruiser. When the officers informed the defendant of the
victim's death, without having told him the circumstances
of that death, the defendant broke down and cried for five
minutes. The defendant said that he did not have a master key
to the apartment units. The defendant was not a suspect at
the time he gave his statement.
chemist from the State police crime laboratory (crime lab)
examined the items from the evidence collection kit and found
sperm cells on the vaginal swab, the vaginal smear, the
anorectal swab, and the anorectal smear. He did not conduct
DNA testing on any of this evidence. In 1991, the crime lab
did not conduct any form of DNA testing; at that time, such
testing was not commonly conducted in State police
crime lab began DNA testing in 2001. In 2002, a State police
analyst performed DNA testing on the anorectal swab and
developed a DNA profile for the ...