Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex
Heard: October 6, 2017.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
September 30, 2010.
cases were tried before Sandra L. Hamlin, J., and a motion
for a new trial, filed on August 6, 2014, was heard by
Kimberly S. Budd, J.
Theodore F. Riordan (Deborah Bates Riordan also present) for
Jessica Langsam, Assistant District Attorney (Joseph T.
Gentile, Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.
convicted the defendant, Idelfonso Velez, of two counts of
murder in the first degree for the deaths of Angel Ortiz and
Trisha Bennett. Each conviction was based on theories of
premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. Represented by
new counsel on appeal, the defendant moved for a new trial,
arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for pursuing
an impracticable third-party culprit defense, rather than
lack of criminal responsibility or mental impairment defenses
based on the defendant's record of mental health problems
and substance use. The defendant appeals from his convictions
and from the denial of his motion for a new trial. We vacate
the denial of his motion for a new trial and remand the case
to the Superior Court for an evidentiary hearing.
April, 2010, Ortiz and Bennett, who were boy friend and girl
friend, were living in a two-bedroom apartment with
Bennett's two year old daughter. Ortiz and the defendant
were friends, and the defendant had previously stayed
overnight at the apartment.
evening of April 30, 2010, the defendant was again staying
overnight at the apartment. At 3:31 A.M. on May 1, 2010, the
defendant telephoned 911 from Bennett's cellular
telephone and reported a home invasion. The defendant told
the dispatcher that masked men had entered the apartment he
was in and had stabbed him and his friends.
A.M., police officers arrived at Ortiz and Bennett's
apartment building. The entryway to the building was locked
and could only be opened by someone with a key or by a
resident responding to the doorbell by remotely unlocking,
i.e., "buzzing" open, the door. Officers pressed
many buzzers until a tenant responded and allowed the door to
be opened. Upon locating Ortiz and Bennett's apartment,
officers found the door ajar but saw no sign of damage to the
door, lock, or handle. In the apartment, police found a knife
and towels in the kitchen sink, both with blood on them.
There was blood in the bathroom. A vase on the floor and a
mirror and a photograph hanging on the wall in the hallway
and Bennett's bodies were found in the main bedroom.
Ortiz's body was at the foot of the bed with a comforter
tightly wrapped around his head. He had blunt-force injuries
to his head and an arm and sharp-force injuries to his neck
and torso and an arm. He died from an approximately four and
one-half inch deep stab wound to his neck. Bennett's body
was on the other side of the room, between the bed and a
wall. She had twenty-four sharp-force injuries and died from
two stab wounds to her neck, either of which alone would have
been fatal. She also had blunt-force injuries to her body.
The medical examiner testified that Ortiz and Bennett had
each experienced pain before dying.
main bedroom, police found three bloody footprints on the
bed. Two were matched to the defendant's footprint, but
one footprint was never identified. In the other bedroom,
where Bennett's daughter usually stayed and where the
defendant was to sleep that night, there was a computer
displaying a pornographic Web site. The computer had been
used to view pornography between 2:42 and 2:51 A.M.
found the defendant lying on the ground outside the building
in a fetal position. He did not respond to officers'
attempts to communicate, although he seemed conscious and
alert. The defendant was wounded on his knee, abdomen,
forearm, and fingers. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
arrived and tended to his injuries, eventually moving him to
the back of a parked ambulance. While the defendant was being
treated, he began to get upset and call out someone's
name, possibly calling out for Ortiz. The defendant became more
physically agitated until a ...