Heard: December 7, 2018.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on
November 2, 2010.
motions to suppress evidence were heard by Charles J. Hely,
J., and Janet L. Sanders, J., and cases were tried before
Linda E. Giles, J.
Jeffrey L. Baler for Alexander Gallett.
S. Crouch for Michel St. Jean.
Montgomery Lewis, Assistant District Attorney (Jennifer
Hickman, Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker,
September 1, 2010, Richel Nova (victim) was robbed and
stabbed to death after being lured to a vacant house in the
Hyde Park section of Boston. A jury convicted the defendants,
Alexander Gallett and Michel St. Jean, of murder in the first
degree by reason of extreme atrocity or cruelty and
felony-murder. The defendants raise various arguments on
appeal. Gallett contends that the motion judge erred in
denying his motion to suppress statements that he made to
police during his interrogation. St. Jean argues that there
was insufficient evidence to support the murder conviction;
he was prejudiced by the admission of statements from
Gallett's redacted police interrogation; he was
prejudiced by the admission of his own redacted statements;
the judge erred in denying his requests for various jury
instructions; and the judge improperly invoked juror
sympathy. In addition, Gallett and St. Jean argue that the
judge erred both in limiting the cross-examination of certain
witnesses and in declining to give a humane practice jury
reasons stated infra, we affirm the defendants'
convictions. After a thorough review of the record, we also
decline to exercise our authority under G. L. c. 278, §
33E, to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdicts of murder
in the first degree.
briefly recite the evidence that the jury could have found,
reserving pertinent facts for the discussion of the
defendants' arguments. In addition, we reserve the facts
that the motion judge found for the discussion of
Gallett's motion to suppress.
the afternoon of September 1, 2010, St. Jean, Gallett, and
Gallett's girlfriend, Yamiley Mathurin, were together at
Aline Valery's house in Hyde Park. Valery overheard the
defendants and Mathurin concocting a plan to rob someone.
Valery left her house, but the defendants and Mathurin stayed
and St. Jean both owned knives. Gallett's knife was
larger than a pocket knife. When opened, the blade would
"cover the whole hand." St. Jean's knife was
smaller; the handle and blade both fit into the palm of a
hand when opened. Gallett usually carried a knife whenever he
left the house. St. Jean always carried a knife on his
approximately 8 P_.M., the defendants and Mathurin took a bus
to a vacant house in Hyde Park. At about 11 £.M.,
Mathurin asked Marie Tunis, a resident of an adjacent home,
to use her telephone. Mathurin telephoned a pizzeria and
placed an order, which included pizzas, chicken wings, and
soda, to be delivered. She asked the pizzeria employee if the
delivery driver would have change for a one hundred or fifty
dollar bill. Mathurin gave St. Jean's cellular telephone
(cell phone) number as the call-back number and asked the
pizzeria employee to send the delivery driver to the back
door of the address to the vacant house. At 11:30 £.M.,
Gallett asked a passerby on the street to use her cell phone.
The passerby testified at trial that Gallett used her cell
phone in front of the vacant house. Gallett telephoned the
thereafter, the victim arrived with the order. Mathurin met
the victim in the driveway of the vacant house and escorted
him up the rear staircase. Five minutes later, the defendants
and Mathurin left the house. Mathurin was holding a pizza
box. St. Jean drove Gallett and Mathurin away in the
group abandoned the victim's vehicle in the rear of a
church parking lot. The pizzeria sign atop the vehicle had
been removed and discarded behind the church. Near or in the
victim's vehicle, officers recovered a white pizza box
and empty bleach and rubbing alcohol bottles. The label on
the outside of the pizza box listed the delivery address as
that of the vacant house and had St. Jean's cell phone
number listed as the callback number.
abandoning the victim's vehicle, the group returned to
Valery's residence. Upon arriving, the group appeared
anxious and smelled of bleach. St. Jean had a cut on his
right hand and was using a bandana to stop the bleeding.
Gallett had blood on his shirt and on the bottom of his
the defendants and Mathurin had left the vacant house,
Michael Tunis, who had witnessed the group drive away,
investigated the house with his brother and a friend. Upon
entering the home, Tunis discovered blood and chicken wings
on the floor near the entryway. Further into the apartment,
in a room off the kitchen, Tunis discovered the victim lying
on his back. The victim had visible puncture wounds and was
unresponsive. Tunis left the house and telephoned police.
approximately 12 A.M., police arrived at the vacant house.
Inside the residence, police discovered the victim's body
along with blood all over the floor; a pizza warmer bag; a
bloody chicken wing box; chicken wings; a knife handle; a
bloody and slightly bent knife blade; and blood on the door
frame leading into the kitchen. The victim's pants
pockets were pulled inside out.
two days, a police investigation led to the arrest of the
defendants and Mathurin. At the defendants' trial, redacted
inculpatory statements from both defendants were introduced
in evidence by way of audio-video recordings. In addition, a
plethora of forensic evidence was introduced that implicated
the defendants, including fingerprints and deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA) found at the vacant house, in the victim's
car, on the victim, on the pizza boxes, on the
defendants' clothing, and on money that Mathurin gave to
police after she was arrested.
trial, Gallett did not deny his involvement in the killing.
Instead, he argued that the evidence of his admissions to
police coupled with his age -- eighteen at the time of the
murder -- supported a conviction of murder in the second
degree rather than murder in the first degree based on
deliberate premeditation, extreme atrocity or cruelty, or
felony-murder. St. Jean's position was that, although he
went with Gallett and Mathurin to the vacant house and broke
into it by punching his fist through glass on the back door,
he did not participate in the victim's murder or robbery,
nor did he share the intent to commit the crimes.
Gallett. a. Miranda warnings.
days after the murder, Gallett was questioned about the
crime. During the questioning, Gallett confessed to the
killing. A redacted audio-video recording of his
interrogation was admitted in evidence at trial. On appeal,
Gallett argues that the motion judge erred in denying his
motion to suppress. He claims that the Commonwealth failed to
demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that he voluntarily
waived his Miranda rights and voluntarily and knowingly made
the inculpatory statements. Gallett contends that he was
incapable of voluntarily waiving his Miranda rights because
of his age -- eighteen at the time of the murder -- coupled
with his low intelligence quotient (IQ). He also contends
that his statements were not made voluntarily because the
interrogating officers induced his statements by
misrepresenting evidence and making false assurances.
Finally, he contends that the statements should have been
suppressed because police delayed his arrest to prevent him
from exercising his right to make a telephone call. The
Commonwealth argues that Gallett was not in custody for
Miranda purposes during his interrogation. Furthermore, the
Commonwealth maintains that even if Gallett were subject to a
custodial interrogation, he was advised of and voluntarily
waived his Miranda rights and his statements were not induced
but made knowingly and voluntarily.
reviewing a decision on a motion to suppress, 'we accept
the judge's subsidiary findings absent clear error
"but conduct an independent review of [the] ultimate
findings and conclusions of law."'"
Commonwealth v. Jones-Pannell, 472
Mass. 429, 431 (2015), quoting Commonwealth
v. Ramos, 470 Mass. 740, 742 (2015). The
motion judge found the following. On the evening of September
3, 2010, after police had gathered evidence about the killing
of the victim, three officers of the Boston police department
were instructed to locate Gallett and Mathurin and ask them
to accompany the officers voluntarily to the police station
for questioning. Dressed in plain clothes, but with their
badges visible, the officers approached Gallett and Mathurin.
Detective Aaron Blocker spoke with Gallett, and the two other
officers spoke with Mathurin. At the outset, Blocker informed
Gallett that he was not under arrest and was free to leave.
Blocker asked Gallett to accompany him to the police station
to speak with homicide detectives. He told Gallett that
Gallett did not have to go with him. Gallett agreed to go to
the station, but was concerned about Mathurin, who was
crying. Blocker told Gallett that officers would give her a
rode with two officers in an unmarked police vehicle to the
station. He was not handcuffed at any time before or during
the interrogation. He arrived at the station at 8 P.M.
Gallett watched television alone for about one and one-half
hours before the interrogation began.
P.M., Detectives Brian Black and Jeremiah Benton began a
video-recorded interview with Gallett. Prior to beginning the
interview, Black read Gallett the Miranda warnings. Black
read the warnings one at a time. Gallett listened to the
warnings and then read them himself. After each warning, he
initialed the warning and informed the officers that he
understood the warnings.
first, Gallett denied having any involvement with the
killing. As the interview progressed, Gallett asked Black
what was happening with his girlfriend, Mathurin. Black
informed Gallett that she was being charged with murder,
armed robbery, and breaking into a house. Gallett responded,
"Let's talk." Gallett proceeded to give a
detailed account of his and St. Jean's involvement in the
killing and stated that Mathurin just watched. The interview
lasted one and one-half hours, at the end of which Gallett
was charged with murder.
motion judge concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Gallett
was not in custody for Miranda purposes during his interview
with the officers at the police station, but that even if he
had been, there was no threatening or coercive tactics used
by the officers; Gallett made a knowing, intelligent, and
voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights; and his statements to
police were voluntary.
preliminary matter, we need not address whether Gallett was
in custody at the time he made the inculpatory statements
because he ultimately received his Miranda warnings before he
made any inculpatory statements. "Because [Gallett] was
advised of, and waived, his Miranda rights, the issue becomes
whether the Commonwealth has proved, by a totality of the
circumstances, that [Gallett] made a voluntary, knowing, and
intelligent waiver of his rights, and that his statements
were otherwise voluntary." Commonwealth v.
LeBeau, 451 Mass. 244, 254-255 (2008). See
Commonwealth v. Medeiros, 395
Mass. 336, 343 (1985) (although voluntariness of Miranda
waiver and voluntariness of statement are distinct inquiries,
totality of circumstances test under each analysis is same).
In reviewing the totality of the circumstances, we consider
factors such as "promises or other inducements, conduct
of the defendant, the defendant's age, education,
intelligence and emotional stability, experience with and in
the criminal justice system, physical and mental condition,
the initiator of the discussion of a deal or leniency
(whether the defendant or the police), and the details of the
interrogation, including the recitation of Miranda
warnings." Commonwealth v.
Mandile, 397 Mass. 410, 413 (1986). "A
voluntary statement is one that is 'the product of a
"rational intellect" and a "free will,"
and not induced by physical or psychological
coercion.'" Commonwealth v.
Monroe, 472 Mass. 461, 468 (2015), quoting
Commonwealth v. Tremblay, 460
Mass. 199, 207 (2011). We conclude that the motion
judge's findings and conclusions are supported by the
Age and IQ.
contends that his age and relatively low IQ suggest that he
did not voluntarily waive the Miranda warnings and
voluntarily make inculpatory statements. After reviewing the
interrogation video recording and hearing testimony from the
interrogating officers, the motion judge found that Black
read the Miranda warnings in a calm and careful manner and
repeatedly informed Gallett that he could stop answering
questions at any time. Furthermore, the motion judge found
that Gallett appeared calm, was responsive to the questions,
and displayed well-organized thinking and rational
decision-making on how to respond. The motion judge concluded
that Gallett understood the warnings, wanted to appear
cooperative, and initially related events that he believed
would be helpful to him.
on the evidence presented at the hearing on the motion to
suppress and our independent review of the recorded
interview, we conclude that the motion judge properly
concluded, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Gallett made his
statements voluntarily after a knowing and intelligent waiver
of his Miranda rights. Gallett was informed of his Miranda
rights and indicated verbally and in writing that he
understood the warnings. Although his age -- eighteen at the
time of the murder -- is a relevant factor to consider, it is
not a determinative one. Cf. Monroe, 472 Mass. at
471 (defendant's emotional and physical condition, while
not determinative, is substantial factor). Furthermore,
Gallett was an average student in high school taking college
preparatory classes. While his grades had declined in recent
semesters, the motion judge attributed that to lack of
attendance. There is no indication that the defendant had
cognitive limitations that would affect his waiver and
voluntary statements. Regardless, evidence of cognitive
limitations "does not compel a determination as matter
of law" that the defendant did not "knowingly and
willingly waive his Miranda rights and make a voluntary
confession." Commonwealth v.
Daniels, 366 Mass. 601, 607 (1975).
addition, there is no indication that Gallett had trouble
understanding or answering the detectives' questions
during the interview. He was not handcuffed, and the
detectives neither yelled at nor acted aggressively toward
Misrepresentation, minimization, and assurances.
argues that the interrogating officers misrepresented
evidence that strengthened their case and made false
assurances that ultimately induced Gallett into making