Jennifer H. O'Brien for the petitioner.
L. Johnston, Assistant District Attorney, for the
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 affirm.
the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth,
see Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378 Mass. 671, 676-677
(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 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
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 Island and lost $300. In the days
after the murder, after learning that the police had searched
Brenda's house, Coggins fled to Georgia in his
girlfriend's car. After he was apprehended, he lied to
police about his activities on the night of the murder.
soil consistent with that used for the marijuana plants on
the second floor of the victim's house was found near the
back door to the victim's home and in the Dodge
Challenger. Deoxyribonucleic acid testing and fingerprint
analysis were performed on various areas of and artifacts
from the crime scene, but none of the analysis linked Coggins
to the crime.
question for this court is "whether, after viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution,
any rational trier of fact could have found the
essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt" (emphasis in original). Latimore, 378
Mass. at 677, quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S.
307, 319 (1979). If not, his retrial would be barred by
principles of double jeopardy. See K ...