45 Mass.App.Ct. 486 (1998), 97-P-1477, Commonwealth v. Barnette

Docket Nº97-P-1477.
Citation45 Mass.App.Ct. 486, 699 N.E.2d 1230
Case DateSeptember 22, 1998
CourtAppeals Court of Massachusetts

Page 486

45 Mass.App.Ct. 486 (1998)

699 N.E.2d 1230




No. 97-P-1477.

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex.

September 22, 1998

Argued May 4, 1998.

[699 N.E.2d 1231] Jon R. Maddox, Belmont, for defendant.

Abra C. Siegel, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.


LENK, Justice.

This case arises out of an altercation between next door neighbors in Lexington. The victims, Maria Acuna and her son Israel Rodriguez, are Mexican-American. The defendant [699 N.E.2d 1232] is predominately African-American. During the incident, the

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defendant allegedly threatened to kill Acuna and Rodriguez, calling them, among other things, "damn Mexicans" and telling them to "Get out of here." After trial, a jury convicted the defendant of two counts of assault or battery for the purpose of intimidation, G.L. c. 265, § 39, and two counts of threatening to commit a crime, G.L. c. 275, § 2. 1 On appeal, the defendant contends that the trial judge erred in: (1) denying the defendant's motion for a required finding of not guilty on the two counts of assault or battery for the purposes of intimidation; (2) improperly instructing the jury on intent; and (3) denying the defendant's motion for new trial on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.

Facts. Taking the facts in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the incident unfolded as follows. In the early evening of September 21, 1995, Maria Acuna (Acuna) was working at her computer on the second floor of her home in Lexington, where she had been living with her son, Israel Rodriguez (Rodriguez), since May, 1995. The defendant was next door at his sister's house babysitting his niece. Acuna heard a loud noise, like someone banging or shaking a wooden fence, looked out her window, and saw the defendant trying to enter her back yard to retrieve his niece's ball. Concerned that the defendant was going to break her fence, Acuna called through the window to the defendant to please not trespass, and that she would come downstairs to help him out.

The defendant shouted, "You bitch, I just came to pick up my ball." Acuna went downstairs and walked into her backyard, and observed that the defendant had entered her yard, and was turning to leave. As the defendant left her yard, he repeatedly called her a "bitch" and told her that she could keep the ball the next time. Acuna walked towards the fence to latch the gate and the defendant said: "You bitch. You don't fit here. What are you doing here, you damn Mexican. Why don't you go back to your country? All of you come and get our jobs and our houses. Get out of here. You don't fit here. I'll kill you and your son." 2

While standing next to the fence shouting at Acuna, the

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defendant thrust his fist towards her face so that she "could almost feel the hit of his fist" in her nose and face. The defendant then threw his fingers in a forking motion towards her, coming to within an inch of her eyes. The defendant was yelling at Acuna so loudly that Rodriguez awoke from his nap and came outside to the backyard. Rodriguez testified that he could hear the defendant shouting "fuck," "shit," and "Mexican," "Get the hell out of the country," "You don't belong here," and "Mexicans don't belong here" at his mother. He pulled his mother away from the fence and demanded to know from the defendant what was going on. The defendant now attempted to hit Rodriguez with his fists, from the other side of the fence, rattling the gate, trying to enter the backyard, and saying: "You little shit. Come up here. I'm going to take the fucking shit out of you and your mother together. I will beat you both to death." The defendant continued saying, "Damn Mexicans. What are you doing here?" Acuna and Rodriguez both testified that they felt afraid and threatened by the defendant's rage and determination to hit them.

At the time of the incident, the defendant's neighbor, Michael Townes, was barbecuing in his backyard, approximately twenty feet away. Townes heard the defendant yell at Acuna and Rodriguez "You should go back to where you're from," and refer to "whupping" Rodriguez's ass. Townes came over and, smelling alcohol on the defendant's breath, told the defendant to "Let it go" and to go home and "sleep it off." Townes put his hands on the defendant and led him away. Rodriguez went inside and, after calling [699 N.E.2d 1233] Townes to express his gratitude, called the police.

Officer Paul Callahan responded to the call and arrived at Acuna's residence to find her and her son visibly upset. Callahan filed an incident report and tried, unsuccessfully, to locate the defendant. The next day, Detective Charles Mercer returned to the neighborhood and interviewed the defendant.

In response to the detective's questions, the defendant asserted that he entered the yard to retrieve the ball only after knocking on the fence and not receiving a response, that Acuna had appeared and yelled at him for not going around to ring the bell, and that he did not swear at or threaten Acuna. Nonetheless, the defendant did admit that he had said that Acuna should

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"go back to where she came from," but claims to have said it...

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