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Commonwealth v. Bryant

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth

July 30, 2019

COMMONWEALTH
v.
KYLE BRYANT.

          Heard: May 10, 2019.

          Homicide. Evidence, Prior misconduct, Inflammatory evidence, Identification. Identification. Practice, Criminal, Instructions to jury, Mistrial, Capital case.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on April 5, 2010. The cases were tried before Thomas F. McGuire, Jr., J.

          Alan J. Black for the defendant.

          Audrey Anderson, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

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

          CYPHER, J.

         A jury convicted the defendant, Kyle Bryant, of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation for the killing of Darnell Harrison (victim), [1] On appeal, the defendant contends that the judge erred when he allowed the Commonwealth to introduce prior bad act evidence that showed the defendant was a drug dealer, denied the defendant's request for an eyewitness identification jury instruction, and denied the defendant's motion for a mistrial.

         For the reasons stated below, we affirm the defendant's 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 or set aside the verdict of murder in the first degree.

         1. Background.

         We summarize the facts that the jury could have found, reserving pertinent facts for the discussion of the defendant's arguments.

         The defendant was a drug dealer who, along with his associates, Peterson Fleury and Tremaine Hampton, sold drugs from a bar. Approximately two months prior to the killing, Fleury sold $1, 200 of the defendant's drugs to Sean Cox and was given $1, 100 in counterfeit money.[2] The defendant was angry that he had been deceived. He told Hampton that he was "gonna get" the person who stole from him.

         On January 5, 2010, the victim and Cox were at the bar. Fleury, who frequented the bar, briefly talked to the victim and Cox and then telephoned the defendant eight times between 5:36 P.M. and 6:07 P.M. Fleury told the defendant that Cox and the victim were at the bar.

         At approximately 6 P.M., the victim and Cox left through the rear of the bar to smoke a cigarette. Shortly thereafter, an individual in a dark, hooded sweatshirt approached Cox and the victim and shot them. The victim stumbled back into the bar and collapsed. After Fleury saw the victim lying on the floor of the bar, he telephoned the defendant again. Cox survived the shooting, but the victim did not.

         Minutes after the shooting, the defendant arrived at the home of Pamela Brown, who lived in an apartment behind the bar and had purchased drugs from the defendant in the past. The defendant banged on her door. Brown thought that strange because the defendant always telephoned her before arriving at her apartment, but he did not do so that day. Once inside, the defendant ran to the bathroom, where he rinsed off his sweatshirt and hung it on the door. Later, he placed the sweatshirt in a plastic bag. The defendant then telephoned Hampton and instructed him to go to the bar to see if police had arrived, but Hampton did not go.

         Soon after the shooting, the defendant's girlfriend arrived at Brown's apartment. The defendant put the plastic bag holding his sweatshirt in his girlfriend's vehicle and placed an unidentified object under the passenger's side seat. The defendant's girlfriend drove away.

         Hours later, Hampton and the defendant met in person, where the defendant confessed to being the shooter. The defendant repeatedly asked Hampton, "Can I trust you?" The defendant stated: "[The victim] couldn't make it to ...


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