Heard December 13, 2018.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
November 21, 2014.
cases were tried before Brian A. Davis, J.
Alan Curhan for Chad Connors.
Jennifer H. O'Brien for Allen Erazo.
Donna-Marie Haran, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Kinder, Neyman, & Desmond, JJ.
August 12, 2014, inmate Michael Freeman beat inmate William
Sires to death in a cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional
Center (SBCC). The defendants, Chad Connors and Allen Erazo,
who are also inmates at SBCC, were charged with murder in the
first degree as joint venturers based on evidence that Erazo
physically forced the victim into the cell where Freeman was
waiting while Connors closed the curtain on the cell door and
stood by during the beating.
April 8, 2016, Freeman pleaded guilty to murder in the first
degree. On May 6, 2016, following a jury trial in the
Superior Court, the defendants were both convicted of murder
in the second degree based on a theory of felony-murder, with
a predicate felony of kidnapping, G. L. c. 265, § 26.
Erazo's conviction of murder in the second degree was
also based on a theory of intent-based murder.
appeal, the defendants challenge the sufficiency of the
evidence. Erazo also claims error in several evidentiary
rulings and raises one argument pursuant to
Commonwealth v. Moffett, 383 Mass.
201 (1981). Specifically, he argues that his felony-murder
conviction is not consonant with justice in light of
Commonwealth v. Brown, 477 Mass.
805, 807 (2017), which narrowed the scope of felony-murder
liability and prospectively "eliminated felony-murder in
the second degree." Commonwealth v. Fredette,
480 Mass. 75, 80 n.9 (2018). Discerning no error, we
summarize the evidence in the light most favorable to the
Commonwealth. See Commonwealth v.
Latimore, 378 Mass. 671, 677-678 (1979). In 2014,
Freeman, the defendants, and the victim resided in the N1
housing unit at SBCC. The unit is monitored by recorded video
surveillance, and a video recording that was introduced at
trial showed the following sequence of events on August 12,
2014. The victim, who was in his seventies and walked with a
cane, fought with Freeman as the victim walked around the
common area of the unit during recreational time. After other
inmates stopped the physical altercation, Freeman, Connors,
and another inmate, Shaun McDonald, huddled together as the
victim continued walking around the common area. When Freeman
confronted the victim a second time shortly thereafter, they
exchanged words and the victim walked away. Freeman and
McDonald then talked in front of McDonald's cell (number
twenty-three) while Connors sat on the table closest to the
officers' station. Freeman briefly entered cell
twenty-three, exited, and spoke to McDonald and Erazo.
Connors, Freeman, and McDonald then engaged in conversation
as the victim walked toward cell twenty-three. As the victim
approached cell twenty-three, Freeman and McDonald entered
the cell and Connors stood by the door. Erazo approached the
victim suddenly from behind, wrapped his arms around the
victim, and violently pulled him inside cell twenty-three.
Connors stepped toward the cell, Erazo exited, and Connors
pulled a curtain across the door. Connors immediately walked
away from the cell and toward the officers' station,
McDonald exited the cell, and the door to cell twenty-three
then closed. Connors circled back to the common area
and sat at a table across from cell twenty-three with a
direct view of the cell and the officers' station.
Connors then left the table and stood next to the cell
directly across from cell twenty-three. One and one-half
minutes later, the door to cell twenty-three reopened.
Neither the victim nor Freeman reemerged.
thirty minutes after Erazo forced the victim into cell
twenty-three, correction officer (CO) Nicholas Poladian was
making his rounds when he noticed blood on the wall in that
cell. Poladian looked inside and saw an inmate on the floor
covered in blood. The inmate, later identified as the victim,
was unrecognizable as a result of the beating. Freeman, who
was standing in the rear of the cell, said, "I did this.
What do you want me to do now?" When asked where the
weapon was, Freeman responded, "I did it. Everything is
in there. I'm the only one." Freeman also said,
"I beat him to death. I killed him." The
victim's cane lay across his chest.