Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Barnstable
Heard: May 10, 2019.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on May 1,
case was tried before Gerald F. O'Neill, Jr., J.
F. Krowski for the defendant.
Elizabeth A. Sweeney, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, & Cypher, JJ.
evening of February 24, 2000, Edward Figueroa was found dead
at his girlfriend's home. On August 21, 2000, the
defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on
theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or
cruelty in connection with the victim's shooting
death. After full consideration of the trial
record and the defendant's arguments, we affirm the
defendant's conviction, and we decline to grant
extraordinary relief pursuant to G. L. c. 278, §
summarize the facts as the jury could have found them,
reserving certain details for discussion of specific issues.
victim, who lived with his girlfriend in Dennisport, was
friends with, and sold marijuana for, the defendant. Because
the victim's car was not registered, he had to rely on
friends to drive him to the defendant's apartment in Fall
River to pick up marijuana to sell, and sometimes had "a
hard time getting a ride." One to two weeks prior to the
victim's death, the victim received rides to Fall River
from two different friends, one of whom observed the
defendant in possession of a revolver approximately five days
before the victim was killed.
evening of February 24, 2000, the defendant was visiting the
victim at the victim's girlfriend's home in
Dennisport. Hours before the victim was shot and killed, the
victim's girlfriend overheard the defendant berating the
victim for failing "to get [his] car on the road."
Although the victim apologized, saying, "Sorry, Dog. ...
I didn't mean to offend you," the defendant told the
victim, "I should slap your face. I should just punch
you in the mouth." Sometime after 9 P.M., the
victim's girlfriend left the two men alone in the living
room of the apartment.
approximately 10:15 P.M., two neighbors heard several
gunshots, and a third neighbor heard a motor vehicle speeding
away. The victim's girlfriend returned at approximately
10:30 P.M., at which time she noticed that the
defendant's car was gone and the front door to her
apartment was partially open. When she entered the living
room of the apartment, she saw that the victim was dead in a
chair that had been tipped backward onto the floor.
victim suffered two gunshot wounds to his head, including
through the left eye and the left temple. Blood spatter
suggested that the victim was on his back on the ground when
he was shot in the head by someone positioned to the
victim's left. The wounds indicated that the firearm was
between six inches and three feet from the victim's head
when it was fired. The victim also had gunshot wounds to his
left arm and right hand, his upper chest, and his left lower
ballistician determined that the five projectiles recovered
from the victim's body were all .38 caliber and were
consistent with having come from the same weapon, likely a
revolver, as no shell casings were recovered from the scene.
site location information (CSLI) indicated that the defendant
made cellular telephone (cell phone) calls on the night of
the murder between 11:29 P.M. and 1:41 A.M. The first of the
calls was initiated in Mattapoisett. Investigators determined
that it would have taken approximately fifty-nine minutes to
travel from the victim's home to Mattapoisett. Thus, the
defendant could have left the victim's apartment at
approximately 10:15 P.M. and arrived in Mattapoisett
approximately fourteen minutes before making his first
telephone call at 11:29 P.M.
defendant's girlfriend initially told investigators that
the defendant had arrived at her apartment at 8 P.M. on the
night of the murder. However, at trial she testified that she
did not know what time the defendant had arrived at her home
that night. She further testified that, on the morning
following the murder, the defendant said to her, "I was
here last night, right? . . . About 8:00, right?" This
caused her to believe something was going on, and to tell the
police that he got home at 8 P.M. on February 24.
later, when the defendant was being held prior to trial, he
had an argument with his cellmate, during which the defendant
threatened to kill the cellmate. When the cellmate responded
that the defendant was not going to kill him because the
defendant did not have a gun, the defendant said essentially,
"That's what the other guy thought."
defendant's theory of the case was that a third party,
Ryan Ferguson, killed the victim. On the night prior to his
death, the victim punched Ferguson several times in the head
as Ferguson sought to confront the defendant about the
defendant's attempt to flirt with Ferguson's
girlfriend. Ferguson later telephoned a friend seeking access
to a firearm, and vowed to get revenge against the victim.
However, there was no evidence that Ferguson ever obtained a
firearm, and there was testimony from witnesses that he was
with others at the time that the victim was killed.
Sufficiency of evidence.
defendant argues that the judge erred in failing to allow his
motion for a required finding of not guilty at the close of
the Commonwealth's case. He claims that the evidence
presented was insufficient to support the conviction of
murder in the first degree because his identification as the
shooter was "left to speculation." In considering
this claim, we must view the evidence presented at trial,
together with reasonable inferences therefrom, in the light
most favorable to the Commonwealth to determine whether any
rational jury could have found each element of the offense
beyond a reasonable doubt. See Commonwealthv.
Latimore, 378 Mass. 671, 676-677 (1979) . As discussed
infra, we conclude that the ...