The Massachusetts Appeals Court today affirmed a man’s convictions related to his kidnapping his own children from a foster home in Braintree in 2013. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Lockwood.
When the defendant previously lived in Vietnam, he had two children with a Vietnamese woman. The children, one boy and one girl, lived with the defendant in a hotel near his workplace while their mother lived in Switzerland. At some point, the manager of the hotel reported that the defendant’s children (then ages seven and nine) were left alone during the day when the defendant went to work. As a result, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) removed the children from the defendant’s care and placed the children with a foster family in Braintree. DCF had filed a motion to transfer custody of the children to their mother in Switzerland, and nine days prior to the hearing the defendant had a supervised visit with his children at a DCF facility in Weymouth. Following the visit, a DCF worker drove the children to the foster home and the defendant – who was not supposed to know where the children were living – followed. Shortly after being dropped off, the defendant’s son went outside to play and noticed the defendant. As his son went back inside, the defendant followed him onto the porch where the 63-year-old foster mother tried to block him from entering the house. The defendant pushed the foster mother aside and went into the kitchen. He grabbed his son and pulled him outside, securing him in his car. The defendant then grabbed his daughter and pushed her into his car before fleeing with both children. The defendant was the subject of an Amber alert and he was captured late the same evening in Connecticut. There was some evidence he was planning to travel to Pennsylvania. The defendant represented himself at trial, where the jury ultimately convicted him of numerous offenses including: breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony; assault and battery on a person over the age of 60; and two counts of aggravated parental kidnapping.
The defendant’s most interesting appellate argument involved the trial judge’s failure to instruct the jury on the defense of necessity. A necessity defense requires the defendant to present some evidence that: (1) he was faced with an imminent and clear danger, which is not speculative or debatable; (2) he could reasonably expect his conduct would effectively act as the direct cause of abating the danger; (3) there was no legal alternative which would have effectively abated the danger; and (4) the Legislature had not precluded the defense. The defendant argued he was legally permitted to forcibly remove his children from the foster home because he believed they were suffering emotionally while in DCF custody. Further, the defendant worried his daughter was going to be subjected to an unnecessary brain surgery and both children might be returned to Vietnam if their mother was awarded custody. The Appeals Court shot down the defendant’s argument by pointing out that even if the defendant’s fears were rational, there were legal alternatives he could have explored instead of kidnapping the children. In fact, there was a court hearing scheduled to occur nine days after the defendant committed his crimes.
The Appeals Court rejected the defendant’s remaining appellate arguments and upheld his convictions. According to a press report, the defendant was sentenced to serve 4-5 years in state prison followed by 10 years of probation.