The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today affirmed the conviction of a man who participated in a shooting that killed a Billerica man in 2012. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Bin.
The victim was a drug dealer who lived with his grandmother in Billerica. His supplier was a woman named Ashley, who sold him large quantities of marijuana that he then broke down and resold. Ashley had a friend named Adam who decided he wanted to rob the victim. Ashley agreed to help Adam and provided him with a map to the victim’s house (including details regarding the interior layout). Adam and several other men left Lynn (where Adam had been meeting with Ashley) during the evening of July 6, 2012, and Adam returned the following morning, looking “frantic.”
The victim’s brother testified he and the victim had been watching a movie at the victim’s house at approximately 3:50 a.m. on July 7, 2012, when they heard a loud noise in the kitchen. When the victim and his brother went into the kitchen, they found three men holding guns. After a brief argument, a physical altercation ensued and one of the men (later identified as Adam) shot the victim in the head. The victim was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The Commonwealth’s theory of the case was that the defendant was one of the men who entered the victim’s kitchen and participated in the botched armed robbery. The prosecutor relied heavily on cell phone records for the defendant and his alleged accomplices that established their presence in Billerica shortly before the shooting. Although none of the men lived in Billerica, cell phone tower records proved they were moving toward the victim’s house. The victim’s cell phone tracked his movement from Revere toward Billerica immediately before the shooting, and there were repeated calls and text messages exchanged between the defendant and his alleged accomplices. The police recovered a Red Sox hat at the victim’s home that contained the defendant’s DNA, and a pair of rubber gloves outside of the victim’s house that contained Adam’s DNA. At trial, the defendant argued the Commonwealth had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was one of the men in the victim’s house on the night of the murder. A Middlesex Superior Court jury convicted the defendant of felony murder (which means the defendant participated in a felony that resulted in the death of the victim) and he appealed.
The defendant’s primary appellate argument was that the Commonwealth’s evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, ruling the defendant was properly convicted under a joint venture theory (which means he knowingly participated in the underlying offense (armed robbery) which led to the victim’s death). The Court pointed out that the defendant’s Red Sox hat was found just outside the victim’s house and cell phone records revealed his communication with the codefendants immediately before the murder. The defendant’s phone placed him in Billerica and there was evidence at the trial that he was longtime friends with the other defendants (most of whom were affiliated with the Bloods gang). The Court determined the jury could have reasonably found the defendant was one of the men who invaded the victim’s kitchen armed with a gun. Accordingly, the defendant was properly convicted and sentenced to life in prison.