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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Upholds Convictions in Chelsea Double Murder Case

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court yesterday affirmed a man’s conviction for murdering two Chelsea residents during the course of an armed robbery.  The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Andre

On September 6, 2010, Luis Rodriguez and his five-year-old son were hanging out in their apartment with their two roommates.  The defendant arrived after midnight and Rodriguez and his son retired to their bedroom and went to sleep while Rodriguez’s roommates and the defendant remained in the living room.  Later in the evening, Rodriguez was jolted awake upon hearing gunshots from the living room.  The defendant then walked into Rodriguez’s bedroom and pointed a gun at Rodriguez and his son.  The defendant said he heard a rumor that there was a large amount of cash somewhere in the apartment and he ordered Rodriguez to help him search for it.  The defendant also told Rodriguez he had been conducting surveillance on the apartment for two weeks and he was offered $25,000 to kill the roommates because they were allegedly informants.  The defendant ordered Rodriguez to go into the living room and begin cleaning up the crime scene by collecting the shell casings and wiping down the areas that may have been touched by the defendant.  Upon entering the living room, the defendant saw his roommates’ bodies (both roommates had been shot in the head).  At the insistence of the defendant, Rodriguez took money from one of his roommate’s pockets to provide to the defendant.  Meanwhile, the defendant stole a PlayStation 3 gaming console and used Rodriguez’s phone to call a third party (reporting “it’s done” to the person on the other line).  The defendant finally allowed Rodriguez and his son to leave the apartment.  They walked to Rodriguez’s father’s house and his parents reported the murders to the police approximately six hours later.  When the police interviewed Rodriguez later in the day, he lied to them and claimed two masked men had committed the crime.  It wasn’t until five days later that Rodriguez came clean and said the defendant had committed the shootings by himself.  Rodriguez said he had lied because he worried he and his son would be killed if he told the truth.  The cops applied for warrants to search the defendant’s cell phone, apartment, and car.  Based on the evidence partially obtained through these warrants, the defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery, and firearms offenses.

On appeal, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence discovered pursuant to the execution of the search warrants, complaining that the police officers’ application was intentionally misleading.  In applying for the search warrants, the cops included Rodriguez’s statement that the defendant had worked alone in killing the victims.  The police application did not mention Rodriguez’s prior inconsistent statement (that the crime had been committed by two masked assailants).  The defendant argued the magistrate would not have approved of the warrants if the cops had been truthful about all of Rodriguez’s statements.  The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed.  When a defendant asserts that the police have lied to obtain a warrant, he (the defendant) must make two preliminary showings – first, that the cops intentionally or knowingly made a false statement in the application (or recklessly disregarded the truth); and the false statement was necessary to find probable cause to issue the warrant (or, in this case, probable cause would not have been found if Rodriguez’s first statement had been included in the application).  In this case, the SJC agreed with the defendant that Rodriguez’s initial statement should have been included in the warrant application.  However, even if the cops committed error in its exclusion, the SJC concluded it would not have changed the magistrate’s decision to issue the warrants.  There was no question Rodriguez’s roommates had been brutally murdered and Rodriguez, as the only adult eyewitness, told the cops the defendant was the shooter.  The warrants would have issued even if Rodriguez’s contradictory statement had been included in the warrant application.

The defendant will now spend the rest of his life in prison.

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