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Commonwealth v. Rivers

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Dukes

April 10, 2018

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MATTHEW W. RIVERS.

          Heard: November 1, 2017.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Edgartown Division of the District Court Department on October 30, 2014. Pretrial motions to suppress evidence heard by J. Thomas Kirkman, J.

         Applications for leave to prosecute interlocutory appeals were heard by Barbara A. Lenk, J., and Margot Botsford, J., in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk, and each appeal was reported to the Appeals Court.

          Timothy M. Moriarty for the defendant.

          Tara L. Johnston, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Green, C.J., Rubin, & Kinder, JJ.

          GREEN, C.J.

         A group altercation outside a party on Martha's Vineyard led to a complaint charging the defendant with two counts of felony assault and battery.[1] He now appeals from two orders of a District Court judge denying his motions to suppress (1) evidence of an out-of-court identification made by an assault victim, and (2) statements the defendant made to police after suggestions by an officer that his cooperation would avoid a felony charge.[2] We affirm the order denying suppression of the identification. However, we agree with the defendant that the Commonwealth did not meet its burden to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the defendant's statements were voluntary, and accordingly we reverse the order denying his motion to suppress them.

         Background.

          We summarize the motion judge's subsidiary findings of fact, which the defendant does not contest.

         On June 28, 2014, the victim went to a party in West Tisbury before going to a party in Oak Bluffs. He had three or four beers that evening and it was "possible" he had some cocaine.

          When the victim arrived at the Oak Bluffs party he encountered Matt Brown, whose sister the victim had been dating. Believing Brown was going to attack him, the victim struck Brown first and was then attacked by several others who cornered him in a parking lot. The victim was between several cars when he struck Brown, and then the defendant struck the victim in the face twice. The defendant tackled the victim and then sat on his chest while hitting him some more. While the defendant was hitting the victim, a third member of the group, Riley Dobel, came over and began "down-force" kicking and "stomping" the victim in the face and arms.[3] The attackers then ran away and the victim was helped by two others, who drove him to the hospital.

         The victim had seen the defendant earlier at the party, and extended congratulations to him for his brother's new child. The victim was also introduced to the defendant's friend Dobel, and talked to him about playing golf with Dobel's father in a "men's league at Farm Neck." The victim saw the defendant and Dobel at other times during the party up until the attack.

         The victim knew the defendant as an "island kid, " knew his father, knew his older brother, and knew that the defendant lived at his grandmother's house around the corner from the victim's house. As a result, he saw the defendant often; he also periodically saw pictures of the defendant in the newspapers for his athletic accomplishments. The victim had seen the defendant, and Dobel, more than a "hundred times" around town.

         At around 2:00 A.M., on June 28, 2014, Detective James Morse of the Oak Bluffs police department was dispatched to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital to interview the victim, who was hospitalized for treatment following the attack. The victim had suffered multiple facial fractures on both sides of his head. Detective Morse noticed that the victim had a "fractured orbit" and seemed "a little off." Over the course of an interview lasting three or four minutes, the victim told Detective Morse that he had ...


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