N.E.3d 528] Homicide . Burning a Dwelling House .
Constitutional Law, Double jeopardy. Practice, Criminal,
Double jeopardy, Mistrial.
H. O’Brien for the petitioner.
Johnston, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.
Coggins appeals from a judgment of a single justice of this
court denying his petition for relief under G. L. c. 211, �
3. Coggins has been indicted for murder in the first degree
and arson in a dwelling, in connection with the death of his
cousin, Justin Downey. Coggins’s jury trial in the Superior
Court ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked. Coggins
subsequently moved to dismiss the indictments, arguing that
his retrial was barred by principles of double jeopardy
because the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient
evidence at his first trial to warrant a conviction with
respect to either charge. The judge who heard the motion to
dismiss, who had presided at the first trial, denied the
motion, and this G. L. c. 211, � 3, petition followed. We
the evidence in the light most favorable to the
Commonwealth, see Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378
Mass. 671, 676-677, 393 N.E.2d 370 (1979), the jury could
have found the following facts. Coggins had been assisting
the victim with an unlawful marijuana growing operation being
conducted out of the victim’s house in New Bedford. At the
time of the murder in April 2014, the victim had twenty-eight
marijuana plants in his home. Twenty-five of the plants
belonged to the victim, three to Coggins.
previous month, the victim had lent Coggins $15,000 to
purchase heroin, with the understanding that Coggins would
resell the heroin at a profit and return the money to the
victim within three weeks. Coggins was unable to purchase the
heroin, and instead gambled away most of the money. During
late March and early April, the victim began asking Coggins
about the money, which annoyed Coggins. A series of messages
on the social networking site Facebook reflected multiple
requests by the victim for information about the money. These
requests came at a time when Coggins was about $80,000 in
debt and owed child support in addition to that. In contrast,
the victim had recently received a total of about $115,000
from the proceeds of the sale of his great grandparents’
home, and he had offered to give Coggins up to $30,000 if
Coggins thought he could make a significant profit on it.
Coggins knew that the victim had a safe in his bedroom, in
which he kept large sums of money, and possessed three
vehicles, including a black Dodge Challenger that the victim
refused to let Coggins drive.
A.M. on April 15, 2014, the victim was found murdered in his
New Bedford home. Someone had intentionally set the [132
N.E.3d 529] house on fire. The victim had been badly beaten
and burned, his wrists and ankles were bound with duct tape,
and a rag had been stuffed down his throat. The cause of
death was asphyxia due to smothering. The burns occurred
after the victim’s death.
back door to the victim’s home was found ajar. The fire was
started in the victim’s second-floor bedroom, near where the
body was found; an accelerant was used. The two bedrooms in
the rear of the second floor of the house, which were
equipped to grow marijuana, were undamaged by the fire. In
one of the rooms, the police found eleven marijuana plants in
the early stages of growth, in potting soil and black canvas
sacks. Seventeen marijuana plants were missing. Also missing
were an expensive watch worn by the victim every day, a safe
containing $13,000, some marijuana seeds the victim kept in
one of his safes, two cellular telephones, and the keys to
the Dodge Challenger.
security system showed that the back door to the victim’s
house was opened three times between 11 P.M. and midnight on
the night of the murder. A neighbor heard barking between 11
P.M. and 11:30 P.M., which was not "usual." The
victim’s two dogs were later found locked in the upstairs
bathroom of the victim’s house.
door was opened two more times between 1:30 A.M. and 1:54
A.M. One of the victim’s telephones was used to place several
calls between 1:58 A.M. and 2:39 A.M. Two of these were to
the victim’s mother and to the victim’s close friend, Kyle
Pires. The victim’s mother only heard a "snoring
sound" on the other end of the line. Pires could not
hear anything, and when he called the victim back, the call
went straight to voicemail. Global positioning system
evidence showed that the Dodge Challenger was in New Bedford
at 2 A.M. and in Providence, Rhode Island, at 2:41 A.M. After
making several stops in Rhode Island, the Challenger traveled
back to Massachusetts and came to a stop at 5:09 A.M. at the
location in New Bedford where it was later found by police.
The back door to the victim’s home was opened twice more
between 5:20 A.M. and 5:40 A.M., before finally being opened
by a firefighter at 8:29 A.M.
months leading up to the murder, Coggins had been involved in
another marijuana-growing operation at the Providence, Rhode
Island, home of Brenda House, the mother of Coggins’s
longtime friend, William House. The night before the
murder, Coggins told William that he wanted to move "his
half" of the marijuana plants out of the victim’s house.
Then, on the night of the murder, Coggins showed up at
William’s house in Providence alone, driving the victim’s
Dodge Challenger. Coggins was looking for a water pump to
feed marijuana plants; William told him it was at William’s
mother’s house. Coggins stopped by Brenda’s house in the
early morning hours of April 15 while she was asleep; she did
not let him in. He showed up at her door again some time
later with a small marijuana plant in a sack matching those
found at the victim’s house. In addition, although Coggins
later told police that he only had a "dollar on
[him]" the night of the murder, Coggins spent over two
hours that night gambling at Twin Rivers Casino in Rhode