Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Upholds Assault Conviction in Dorchester Shooting

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today affirmed the conviction of a defendant who shot a man in Dorchester, causing the victim to sustain serious lower body injuries.  The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Beal

The victim was attending a cookout to celebrate his friend’s birthday.  A man walking by on the street confronted some of the cookout’s attendees, accusing them of looking at him.  That man eventually had a conversation with two men in a passing Toyota Corolla.  The Corolla drove in front of the house that was hosting the cookout and the driver accused the people attending the cookout of looking at him funny.  The defendant, who was the driver of the Corolla, threatened to slap the victim, who by then was standing near the street.  The victim and another person at the cookout threw beer bottles at the Corolla.  One of the bottles hit the defendant in the head and another bottle broke one of the Corolla’s windows.  In response, the defendant exited his car, pulled out a gun, and fired two shots at the group of people attending the cookout.  The victim tried to escape by running toward the back of the property, but the defendant followed him while continuing to shoot.  One of the bullets hit the victim in the lower back.  The defendant fled the scene, but the police later arrested him and observed that he was bleeding from a wound on his head.  The cops also found his car, which contained a gun and the defendant’s blood.  The defendant was charged with several offenses, including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon resulting in serious bodily injury.  Following his convictions, he appealed.

The defendant argued the evidence did not support the conviction for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon resulting in serious bodily injury because the evidence of a serious bodily injury was insufficient.  “Serious bodily injury” is defined as a bodily injury that causes a permanent disfigurement, loss or impairment of a limb, organ, or bodily function, or a substantial risk of death.  At trial, the victim’s brother testified that the victim spent two months in a Boston hospital following the shooting and then another six months at an inpatient rehab center.  When he was released, the victim had to use a wheelchair and couldn’t walk without the assistance of crutches.  Further, he needed help to get in and out of the shower and had to be carried up and down the stairs to get to his second-floor apartment.  The defendant argued that the jury could not conclude the victim’s injuries resulted from the gunshot wound without either testimony from the victim himself or the admission of medical evidence.  The SJC disagreed, ruling that the jurors could use their common sense to conclude the gunshot had damaged the victim’s back in such a way that he did not have full function of his lower limbs.  Because the victim’s injuries clearly satisfied the definition of “serious bodily injury,” the defendant’s conviction was supported by the evidence.