The Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld the manslaughter conviction returned against a defendant who slammed her car into pedestrian in Springfield, killing her. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Franceschi.
On February 17, 2013, the victim drove her car to Rosario’s Mini Market in Springfield. She and her friend, who accompanied her to the market, chatted with several men including the owner of Rosario’s. The defendant entered the market and began harassing the owner, who she was dating, for speaking to the victim. The defendant gave the victim dirty looks and referred to her as a whore. The defendant’s argument with the market owner continued outside of the store, when the victim heard the sound of breaking glass. By the time the victim left the store, the defendant had left. However, the victim discovered that her car’s rear light, bumper, and trunk had been damaged, and she believed the damage had been caused by the defendant. The next day, the victim went back to Rosario’s to talk to the owner about her car. After learning the owner was not at the market, the victim walked to a nearby store with her friend and 14-year-old daughter, who had accompanied her. A short time later, they were walking back to Rosario’s as the defendant was leaving the market in her car. The defendant began driving toward the victim, who was crossing the street. While the victim’s friend and daughter made it to the other side of the road, the defendant’s car collided with the victim which caused the victim’s death. The victim’s daughter testified her mother was in the middle of the road when she was hit, and the defendant’s car accelerated immediately before the collision. A subsequent police investigation determined the victim was struck by the defendant’s car at its “dead center under the license plate” and it did not appear the defendant’ car had braked immediately after the impact. The victim’s feet were on the yellow line following the collision. The defendant was charged with murder, but a Springfield superior court jury convicted her of voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is defined as the intentional killing of another person, but accompanied by a mitigating factor such as heat of passion. After a judge sentenced her to serve 9-12 years in state prison, the defendant appealed.
The defendant argued the Commonwealth had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the collision represented an accident (instead of an intentional act). If the defendant had accidentally struck the victim with her car, she could not be convicted of manslaughter. The Appeals Court disagreed with the defendant’s assertion, concluding there was plenty of evidence to establish the collision was intentional. The forensic evidence collected by the police corroborated the witness testimony that the victim was in the middle of the road when she was struck. Further, the jurors were entitled to believe the testimony of the victim’s daughter, who said the defendant had shook her head no and failed to brake before running over her mother. All of the evidence presented at trial, therefore, supported the defendant’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter.