Kenneth H. Anderson for the defendant.
Yeshulas, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.
Healey, Attorney General, & Argie K. Shapiro, Assistant
Attorney General, for Attorney General, amicus curiae,
submitted a brief.
jury convicted the defendant, Bryan M. Grassie, of murder in
the second degree, he filed a motion pursuant to Mass. R.
Crim. P. 25 (b) (2), as amended, 420 Mass. 1502 (1995), to
reduce the verdict to manslaughter. The trial judge denied the
motion. In the defendant's direct appeal, which we
transferred to this court on our own initiative, we addressed
most of the issues in the case but left open the
defendant's claim that the trial judge erred or abused
his discretion in denying the rule 25 motion. See
Commonwealth v. Grassie, 476 Mass. 202 (2017)
(Grassie I). We then transferred the case to the
county court in order for the trial judge, who is now a
Justice of this court, to review the motion and provide a
statement explaining the reasons for his decision. See
Id. at 216-217. He did so, and then reported the
matter back to the full court along with a memorandum of
decision. Because in his memorandum he referred to two
different standards of review (one proper and one improper),
we remanded the matter back to him, again sitting as a single
justice, for reconsideration. In his amended decision, by
which we are assured that he has applied the proper standard,
he concluded that the case "is not one of the
extraordinary cases where the interests of justice require
the trial judge to disturb a verdict supported by the
evidence," and that decision is now before us.
single issue left for us to decide is whether the trial judge
erred or abused his discretion in reaching this conclusion --
that is, in denying the defendant's motion to reduce the
verdict from murder in the second degree to manslaughter. As
we stated in Grassie I, 476 Mass. at 214,
"[a]buse of discretion arises where the judge made a
clear error of judgment in weighing the factors relevant to
the decision . . . such that the decision falls outside the
range of reasonable alternatives" (quotations and
(b) (2) authorizes a trial judge to reduce a verdict
"even if the evidence warrants the jury's
verdict" to help "ensure that the result in every
criminal case is consonant with justice."
Commonwealth v. Woodward, 427 Mass. 659, 666 (1998).
In assessing a motion pursuant to the rule, a judge must
consider all the evidence. See, e.g., Commonwealth v.
Sokphann Chhim, 447 Mass. 370, 382-383 (2006). Now that
we have the trial judge's amended decision before us,
there is no question that he has done this, and that in
reaching his decision to deny the defendant's motion to
reduce the verdict, he took into account all the trial
evidence, including evidence of mitigation. The evidence at
trial, as detailed in Grassie I, 476 Mass. at
208-209, included that the defendant was the initial
aggressor and that he invited the altercation that led to the
fatal stabbing. Evidence of mitigation included the
defendant's age (a few months past his eighteenth
birthday), that the defendant was outnumbered, and that he
was intoxicated. Id. at 212. The case, in short, is
a close one, but the trial judge, having seen and heard all
the evidence directly, is in the best position to assess
Our role here is "not to decide whether we would have
acted as the trial judge did," Id. at 214,
quoting Sokphann Chhim, supra at 381, but
only, as we have noted, to determine whether he abused his
discretion or committed an error of law.
power to reduce a verdict pursuant to rule 25 should be
exercised only sparingly. See Sokphann Chhim, 447
Mass. at 381. The trial judge did not err or abuse his
discretion in deciding not to reduce the verdict here.
therefore affirm the defendant's convictions for the
reasons stated in Grassie I. And for the reasons
stated herein, we affirm the denial of the defendant's
motion to reduce the verdict from murder in the second degree
 The jury also convicted the defendant
of assault and battery by means of a dangerous
 We rejected the defendant's claims
that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction
of murder in the second degree; that the prosecutor's
closing argument was improper and warranted a new trial; and
that the indictment should be dismissed on the basis that the
grand jury were not given legal instructions on mitigating
circumstances and self-defense. See Commonwealth v.
Grassie, 476 Mass. 202, 203 (2017).
 The defendant takes particular issue
with what he sees as the trial judge's failure to
"fully appreciate" how the defendant's age at
the time of the incident had an impact on the defendant's
behavior. We think it clear that the judge did take this into
account, specifically noting as evidence of mitigation the
fact that the defendant and the victims were ...