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Commonwealth v. Hardy

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Hampden

June 12, 2019

COMMONWEALTH
v.
Suzanne HARDY.

         Argued February 5, 2019

         [123 N.E.3d 774] INDICTMENTS found and returned in the Superior Court Department on June 1, 2015.

          The cases were tried before Richard J. Carey, J.

          The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

         Marissa Elkins, Amherst, for the defendant.

          Shane T. O’Sullivan, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

         Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.

         OPINION

         CYPHER, J.

          In June 2014, the defendant, Suzanne Hardy, was involved in a multivehicle accident in Brimfield in which her two nephews -- four year old Dylan Riel and sixteen month old Jayce Garcia -- were fatally injured.[1] The defendant and her four year old son were seriously injured, but survived. At the time of the accident, Dylan was seated in the rear middle seat of the defendant’s four-door sedan with the seat belt fastened, but without an

Page 417

age and size appropriate child safety "booster" seat, and Jayce was seated in the rear passenger’s side position, in a front-facing safety seat with the straps set too high, rather than an age and size appropriate rear-facing safety seat.

         The defendant was indicted on two counts of manslaughter, G. L. c. 265, § 13; two counts of negligent motor vehicle homicide, G. L. c. 90, § 24G (b); one count of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, G. L. c. 265, § 15A (b); and three counts of reckless endangerment of a child, G. L. c. 265, § 13L. The defendant was convicted of manslaughter of Dylan, reckless endangerment of Dylan, and negligent motor vehicle homicide of Dylan and Jayce.

         On appeal, the defendant raises two arguments. First, she contends that there [123 N.E.3d 775] was insufficient evidence to support the convictions of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment of a child relating to Dylan. Second, she argues that, during closing argument, the Commonwealth improperly argued inferences not supported by the evidence and appealed to the passions and sympathies of the jury. We conclude that there was insufficient evidence to show that the defendant’s actions amounted to wanton or reckless conduct, and as such, we vacate the convictions of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment of Dylan. The defendant’s two convictions of negligent homicide are affirmed.[2]

         1. Background.

         The defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence; therefore, we ...


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