The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts overturned one man’s 2013 homicide conviction in a ruling on March 3. The man had been sentenced to life imprisonment after he was found guilty of participating in the stabbing murder of a 17-year-old in Taunton. However, the court ruled that prosecutors had not met their burden of proof to show that the man was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The court even stated that prosecutors had not successfully shown that the man was present at the time of the homicide. As a result, the order directed that the lower court should enter a not guilty verdict.
The 17-year-old had been stabbed 13 times in 2010 in an altercation after he was chased away from a convenience store. The convicted man’s brother, also 17 at the time of the incident, and uncle were convicted in the murder as well. While prosecutors never claimed that the convicted man had actually held a knife or stabbed the boy, they accused him of being part of the crime. All along, the man’s criminal defense attorneys argued that he did not participate in the killing and was not present at the time of the murder. However, he was convicted in the case alongside his co-defendants, while others pleaded guilty.
In its ruling, the high court noted that prosecutors’ evidence was contradictory, confusing, and did not make out a clear case for a murder conviction. The opinion also said that prosecutors overstated the evidence in their closing arguments. The man cannot be retried on these allegations due to the prohibition of double jeopardy.
People facing criminal charges may find themselves facing overwhelming efforts to convict them by police and prosecutors. A criminal defense attorney may help clients protect their rights or aim to overturn a wrongful conviction.