Com. v. DiMarzo

Decision Date28 February 1974
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH v. Richard A. DiMARZO.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Edward T. Dangel, III, Boston (Edward M. Dangel, Boston, with him), for defendant.

Stephen R. Delinsky, Asst. Dist. Atty. (Roger A. Emanuelson, Legal Asst. to the Dist. Atty., with him), for the Commonwealth.


REARDON, Justice.

The defendant was tried on an indictment for first degree murder in a case taken pursuant to G.L. c. 278, §§ 33A--33G, was found guilty, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The case is here on assignments of error which will be discussed seriatim. The jury could have found that following months of torture, monstrous treatment of the victim resulted in her eventual death. The details of the crime need not be recounted but such reference may be made to them as necessary in dealing with the several assignments. We consider the major assignments which have been argued to us in behalf of the defendant.

1. It is first alleged that there was error in permitting the Commonwealth to proceed under G.L. c. 277, § 57A, and by not allowing the defendant to litigate the issue of jurisdiction of the alleged crime. The statute reads: 'A defendant shall not be discharged for want of jurisdiction if the evidence discloses that the crime with which he is charged was actually committed without the county or the territorial jurisdiction of the court in which he is being tried; provided, that the attorney general or the district attorney petitions to the court before proceeding with the trial for leave to proceed, stating that he is in doubt from the state of the evidence then in his possession as to whether or not the crime was committed within the county or the territorial jurisdiction of the court, and the court after hearing said petition orders the trial to proceed.' The evidence disclosed that on January 9, 1971, the nude, beaten and frozen body of a young woman was found propped against a pine tree in Wells, Maine, there being snow on the ground, and that she was later identified as Constance Corcione who had last been seen alive three days previous at a house in Revere. The district attorney filed a petition in accordance with the above cited statute stating that 'he is in doubt from the state of the evidence now in his possession as to whether or not the crime alleged . . . was committed within the county or the territorial jurisdiction of the court,' and sought leave to proceed, which the trial judge granted.

The defendant argues that such a procedure did not give the court jurisdiction over the crime if it were committed without the territorial borders of Massachusetts. With this contention we agree. In Commonwealth v. Mannos, 311 Mass. 94, 40 N.E.2d 291 (1942), it was made clear that the statute is concerned with venue and not with jurisdiction. It was stated in the Mannos case at p. 103, 40 N.E.2d at p. 297, that '(t)he Legislature was undoubtedly authorized to regulate the place of trial of this particular class of cases where the place of the crime might be shown at the trial to be outside the county or the territorial jurisdiction of the court.' But this does not make the procedure in this case invalid. Since there was uncertainty as to the territorial subdivision where the act was committed, it was proper for the judge to allow trial to proceed under the statute to obviate any question of improper venue.

With reference to the question of jurisdiction, there can be no doubt that the judge had no power to try the defendant for crimes committed out of State. The questions before us are (1) whether there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that the crime of murder charged against the defendant occurred in Massachusetts and (2) whether the judge rendered an adequate charge to the jury on their responsibility to determine the location of the crime. COMMONWEALTH V. FLEMING, MASS. (1971), 274 N.E.2D 809.A On this latter point the judge refused to grant an instruction requested by the defendant and an exception was taken.

As to the first point, there was ample evidence that the beatings which eventually led to the death of the victim took place in Massachusetts. A medical examiner testified at length and placed the time of death as being within seventy-two hours of the time of the autopsy, or as early as January 7, 1971. There was evidence that hair found in the trunk of the defendant's car matched the hair of the victim. There was evidence from a witness who saw the defendant on January 7, 1971, put a large duffel bag in the trunk of his car at the house in Revere where he and the victim both resided. In addition there was evidence that the victim did not die at the tree where her body was discovered. From the testimony of neighbors and others, the jury could have properly concluded that it was in Revere that the final indignity was visited upon the victim and death released her from her tortures. Commonwealth v. Dorr, 216 Mass. 314, 317, 103 N.E. 902 (1914). The question of the location of the crime was properly left to the jury which could have found that the homicide occurred in Revere. Commonwealth v. Fleming, supra.

Relative to the adequacy of the instruction, the judge charged the jury, 'We have a law enacted by the Legislature which reads as follows: 'If a mortal wound is given or if other violence or injury is inflicted in any county of the Commonwealth by means whereof death ensues outside the Commonwealth, the homicide may be prosecuted and punished in the county where the act was committed,' and because of a paper which was filed in this case by the Commonwealth, I charge you as a matter of law that if you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a mortal wound was inflicted upon this victim anywhere within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and death ensued, the offense may be punished here in this county.' The charge properly covered the relevant issue. There was no need to give the instruction relative to the same material in the form requested by the defendant. See Commonwealth v. Kelley, 359 Mass. 77, 92, 268 N.E.2d 132 (1971).

We conclude that it was proper to allow the Commonwealth to proceed under the statute and that the question of jurisdiction was adequately submitted to the jury.

2. An error is assigned in that the trial judge allowed an out-of-State view by the jury, and that the defendant was not allowed to be present at either the in-State or our-of-State jury views.

The taking of a view is a matter which was within the discretion of the trial judge, and we have hitherto held that the 'right to order a view in furtherance of justice extends to places without as well as within the county where the crime is alleged to have been committed.' Commonwealth v. Gedzium, 259 Mass. 453, 462, 156 N.E. 890, 893 (1927), overruled on other grounds in CONNOR V. COMMONWEALTH, MASS. (1973), 296 N.E.2D 172,B and cases cited. There is a question raised here as to the propriety of taking a view outside the State. The defendant argues that the judge was without authority to conduct such a view, being powerless to rule on defence or Commonwealth requests while in the State of Maine, that the court officers were without authority to supervise the jury while there, and that the transcript of the jury view proceedings was not official in that the court reporter was not properly sworn to act in Maine. The Commonwealth takes, of course, the opposite position. In a New Hampshire case, Carpenter v. Carpenter, 78 N.H. 440, 101 A. 628 (1917), a view was taken in Magnolia, Massachusetts, by a judge trying a case in New Hampshire without a jury. While the judge took the view without objection, the New Hampshire Supreme Court, in deciding that it was not improper for him to do so, pointed out that he was not holding court or trying the case in Massachusetts; that '(w)hen he was there the court was in recess.' P. 448, 101 A. at p. 632. The same result was reached by the Washington Supreme Court when a jury in a criminal case took an out-of-State view in State v. Much, 156 Wash. 403, 414--415, 287 P. 57 (1930). In the Carpenter case, supra, the court stated, 78 N.H. at p. 451, 101 A. at p. 633, that '(a) view therefore, is a method of procedure conducted in the absence of the court as an aid in the ascertainment of the truth from the physical act of inspection, which does not require the exercise of the judicial powers of a court at the time for its proper performance.' This conforms with the general principles regarding in-State views stated in the Massachusetts decisions. See Commonwealth v. Snyder, 282 Mass. 401, 413--414, 185 N.E. 376 (1933), and cases cited, affd. sub nom. Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 108, 54 S.Ct. 330, 78 L.Ed. 674 (1934). If such is the correct exposition of a view when taken within the State, it is also correct when the view is taken outside the State. It does not appear to us that there is basic vice in allowing under rare and appropriate cases out-of-State views. The function of the jury in such a case is simply to observe. Pictures of sites outside a State are frequently proper pieces of evidence, and it is difficult to distinguish between the view by a jury of the pictures of an out-of-State site and their own view by a visit to the site. In an unusual case the trial judge may in his discretion, given due consideration to the distances involved, properly conclude that the observable features of a site to be registered in the mind of a juror would be more comprehensively assimilated by his physical attendance there rather than by viewing pictures. We see no error in allowing the out-of-State view.

Nor is there error in denying the defendant the opportunity to attend the in-State or out-of-State views. We have said that the 'whole subject rests in the sound discretion of the court. That discretion...

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