The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld a series of convictions entered against a man for his participation in a masked armed robbery in Worcester in 2010. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Lavin.
As the victim was watching a movie in his second floor apartment in the middle of the night on November 27, 2010, three men broke through his front door. The men identified themselves as Worcester police officers and were carrying what appeared to be firearms. Two of the men wore black ski masks. The assailants demanded drugs from the victim and began ransacking his apartment. The Commonwealth’s theory of the case was that the defendant was one of the two masked men. He stayed with the victim while his codefendants searched the apartment. At various points during the assault, the defendant pointed his gun at the victim, ordered him to lie on the floor, and tied him up. The victim described the defendant as being approximately six feet tall, with a broad build, wearing a black hoodie, mask, and unique Jordan 4 sneakers with easily identifiable features. The defendants eventually left, taking with them jewelry, around $1,600 in cash, and the victim’s cell phone. Although still tied up, the victim was eventually able make his way to the downstairs apartment (where his grandmother lived). The police were called and the victim cooperated with their investigation. After the defendants left, the victim found an ammunition clip on the stairway leading to his apartment. After the defendant’s thumbprint was found on the ammunition clip, the police went to his girlfriend’s home and found him lying in one of the bedrooms. Also found in the bedroom were replica firearms and clothing that appeared to have been used in the home invasion. The defendant was wearing a pair of Jordan sneakers that matched the description provided by the victim. Finally, the police found the victim’s cell phone in the defendant’s girlfriend’s kitchen. The defendant was indicted and charged with: home invasion; assault and battery; unlawful possession of ammunition; impersonating a police officer; and being a career criminal. Following his conviction by a Worcester Superior Court jury, he appealed.
His primary appellate argument was that the evidence against him was insufficient to support the conclusion that he was the masked man inside the victim’s apartment. The Supreme Judicial Court has previously ruled that a fingerprint located at the scene of a crime, without sufficient corroborating evidence, cannot be the basis for a criminal conviction. In this case, however, the Appeals Court ruled there was more than enough corroborating evidence against the defendant. The police found clothing matching the description of the assailant in the bedroom where the defendant was located, and the defendant was wearing the shoes that had been described by the victim. There were also replica weapons that were consistent with the description of the weapons that was provided by the victim. Perhaps most importantly, the victim’s cell phone was located in the home where the defendant was found the day after the home invasion. There was plenty of evidence to corroborate the thumbprint evidence, and the defendant’s convictions were accordingly upheld.