In 1980, the defendant’s wife was stabbed to death in her Bourne home. Twenty five years later, a man named Steven Stewart was convicted of murdering her. After Stewart’s conviction was reversed on appeal, he entered into a cooperation agreement with the Commonwealth and agreed to testify that he was a hitman, paid by the defendant to kill his wife. The defendant was then tried and found guilty of killing his wife, and today the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed his conviction in Commonwealth v. Edmond Carriere.
Prior to the victim’s fatal stabbing, she and the defendant were in the midst of an ugly divorce. The defendant told several people that the victim was intending to take their home and “everything else” in the divorce, and he would pay to have her killed. A month prior to the crime, the defendant paid a middleman to hire a hitman to kill the wife. The defendant arranged to be in Florida with his two daughters at the time of the murder. After learning of the victim’s death, the defendant drove back to Massachusetts.
Much of the evidence against the defendant was in the form of statements made by “joint venturers.” In Massachusetts, an individual can be convicted of a crime even if he or she was not the principal criminal. For example, during a bank robbery, the person who passes the note to the teller, the lookout, and the getaway driver can all be convicted of robbery (even if the lookout and the driver never went inside of the bank).
Hearsay, which is an out-of-court statement offered for its truth, is generally not admissible in criminal trials. However, in cases involving joint venture, statements made by joint venturers are admissible if they were made during, and in furtherance, of the criminal act. These statements are admissible because they are considered to be reliable and are viewed as equivalent to statements of the defendant (which are always admissible at trial). The defendant here argued that the Commonwealth had not proven the existence of a joint venture, and therefore many of the statements admitted against him should have been excluded.
The Supreme Judicial Court rejected the defendant’s arguments and ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that the defendant, the middleman, and the hitman were involved in a joint venture to kill the defendant’s wife. While concluding that some of the statements that were admitted at trial were outside the scope of the joint venture, the Court ruled that they were unlikely to influence the jury’s verdict, given the extensive statements, attributed to the defendant, that he wanted his wife killed by a hitman and planned to be in Florida at the time of the murder.
The defendant made additional statements about his wife that were admitted at trial, including that she was a “whore” who was having sex with “everyone on Cape Cod.” These statements were admissible because they were made by the defendant himself and they illustrated the defendant’s hostility toward the victim. Evidence of such hostility is admissible to establish that the defendant had a motive to kill his wife.
For 32 years, the defendant escaped punishment for killing his wife. With his conviction, he will now spend the rest of his life in prison.