Com. v. Gomes

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation526 N.E.2d 1270,403 Mass. 258
Decision Date17 August 1988

Page 1270

526 N.E.2d 1270
403 Mass. 258

Antonio GOMES.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,
Argued May 3, 1988.
Decided Aug. 17, 1988.

[403 Mass. 259]

Page 1271

Roxana Marchosky, Cambridge, for defendant.

Kevin Connelly, Asst. Dist. Atty., for the Com.

Before [403 Mass. 258] HENNESSEY, C.J., and WILKINS, NOLAN, LYNCH and O'CONNOR, JJ.

[403 Mass. 259] LYNCH, Justice.

Antonio Gomes was indicted for the murders in the first degree of Basilisa Melendez, Joanna Aponte Rodriguez, and Kenneth Aponte Rodriguez, and for breaking and entering a dwelling house in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony and making an armed assault therein. The defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of blood enzyme testing. The motion was denied after hearing, but the defendant was granted the opportunity to present further evidence on the motion. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences on the murder charges, and to a further concurrent life term on the breaking and entering charge. We affirm.

We summarize the relevant facts as the jury could have found them. On the morning of December 5, 1979, Eduardo Aponte Rodriguez (Aponte) took his common law wife, Basilisa, and two of their three children, Jacqueline and Kenneth, from their home at 12 Jacobs Street, Boston, to a hospital in his van. A third child, Joanna,

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was left with Aponte's parents. Aponte himself then went on to meet two friends, identified as Pepo and Papo. Sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 P.M. Aponte, Pepo, Papo, and another friend--identified as Harry--returned to Aponte's home to pick up a refrigerator left outside the house. Basilisa and the two children returned from the hospital about fifteen minutes later. Basilisa told Aponte to pick up Joanna at his parents' home. With the refrigerator in the back of the van, Aponte, Pepo, and Papo left. Harry stayed behind.

After unloading the refrigerator, Aponte, Pepo, and Papo drove to a junkyard to get an automobile part, but the yard was closed. At approximately 4:00 to 4:15 P.M. the three drove to Aponte's parents' home to pick up Joanna. Aponte dropped Joanna at home and then continued to bring his friends home. On the way the three again stopped at the junkyard and, after waiting about an hour, obtained the necessary part. Aponte [403 Mass. 260] took his friends home at about 6:00 to 6:15 P.M. and then returned home himself at about 6:25 or 6:30 P.M.

His landlord, Antonio Cardoza, was waiting outside the house. Aponte owed Cardoza money for rent. Aponte told Cardoza that Basilisa had the money and that he would go get it. After parking his van in the driveway, Aponte walked up the steps followed by Cardoza. Aponte put his key into the lock but the door would not open; the door or doorlock had been broken. Part of the door fell forward and Aponte pushed the door open.

Aponte saw his wife's body lying on the floor, and exclaimed, "Oh, my God, Bassi, what have they done to you?" He told Cardoza to call the police. He then went out on the porch and, holding onto one of the columns, screamed, "Oh, God, please help me, please help me, God." 1 While he was calling out for help, Aponte saw three adults emerge from nearby 24 Jacobs Street, the building where the defendant lived. They looked at him, got into an automobile parked in front of 24 Jacobs Street, and drove away.

Boston police officers Lawrence Fisher and Michael Cintolo arrived on the scene at 6:36 P.M. Aponte saw the officers and called out, in Spanish, "Help me." The officers got out of their police car, came up the stairs, and entered the house. There they observed the bodies of Aponte's wife and two of the children. The third child, an infant, lay in a crib in another room, unharmed. Aponte's wife was covered with blood, her face and head severely battered. She had been stabbed. She was naked from the breastline down. The children had also been stabbed. One had been thrown up against the wall; the other lay tangled up with a wooden chair. One of the children had been "almost decapitated" and her throat had been cut. Officer Cintolo radioed for ambulances.

Officer Fisher began to investigate the apartment. The master bedroom had been ransacked. Officer Fisher observed broken [403 Mass. 261] windows in the room. In the kitchen Fisher saw that a window was open about twenty-four inches with its curtain flapping in the wind. He glanced out the window into the dark and saw below the remnants of what appeared to be a broken screen propped up against the building.

Boston police detective Thomas Cashman, who had arrived on the scene shortly after officers Fisher and Cintolo, observed a brown paper bag in the front bedroom of the house. On the bag were some reddish stains, later determined to be blood. Inside were Christmas gifts that Aponte had bought two or three days earlier, some children's clothes.

Suffolk County medical examiner George Curtis, who had arrived on the scene at about 8:00 P.M., found that the victims had been stabbed and beaten, and that they had died "[o]ne or two hours, not more than three hours" before his arrival; specifically, he concluded that their deaths occurred roughly between 5:50 P.M. and 6:30 P.M.

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Also arriving about 8:00 P.M. was Boston police criminalist Stanley Bogdan. He collected specimens of a number of reddish stains throughout the apartment. After chemical analysis he concluded that the specimens were blood stains of human origin. He tested each specimen to determine its blood type within the ABO blood grouping system.

The mother and children all had type O blood, as did Aponte and the landlord. Aponte's friend Harry had type B. Bogdan found certain specimens to be type O. ABO tests were inconclusive as to a number of other items, including stains collected from a chair in the doorway. However, Bogdan was able to determine that the stains from the chair were consistent with a mixture of two blood types: O and A. This was consistent with two people--one with type O blood, the other with type A--bleeding at the same time in the same immediate area. Chemical analysis revealed type A blood in the following items: reddish stains from the back of a bedspread, reddish spots from the front bedroom floor, stains from the bed, stains from the edge of the front bedroom door, stains from a hanging string of beads, and stains from the paper bag found in the front bedroom. Further tests revealed that the type A bloodstain on [403 Mass. 262] the paper bag was Rh positive. Bogdan sent the specimen from the paper bag to FBI agent William McInnis for additional blood grouping tests, described in detail in the body of this opinion.

The defendant's activities on the night of the murders are described as follows. At 7:00 P.M. that night the defendant was admitted to the emergency room at Boston City Hospital 2 complaining of a stab wound to his right forearm and a bruise on his right hand. He told the treating physician that he had sustained these injuries while punching an assailant. He said that he had been stabbed. The doctor testified that the wound was of the type that would have bled.

Boston police officers Francis Evans and Ronald Erickson responded to Boston City Hospital upon report of a stabbing. They did not know about the incident at 12 Jacobs Street. They arrived at 9:55 P.M. and went to the emergency room. In a trauma room they saw the defendant whose right arm was now bandaged from the elbow down, including his hand and wrist. When the officers, who were in uniform, entered the room, the defendant looked at them, "immediately straightened right up" or "popped his head up" and asked, "Why are you here?" Officer Evans told the defendant they had come to talk with him about his injury. The defendant said, "Who called you?" Officer Evans said he assumed that hospital personnel had called.

The police then asked the defendant his name and address and questioned him as to how he had been injured. The defendant said he lived at 24 Jacobs Street. He did not give clear answers to the police questions and fumbled with his words. When questioned as to the particulars of how his injury had occurred, the defendant "seemed to agree with whatever was suggested to him." He was anxious to leave, [he said] several times, "I have to go; I'm getting a ride." The defendant's account to the police at the hospital was essentially as follows: [403 Mass. 263] He had been at a trolley stop with his five year old son. Initially, he could not pinpoint the exact location of the stop, but was able to do so later when the police questioned him as to various landmarks. At the trolley stop a black man wearing a blue hat, blue jacket and pants approached and asked the defendant for a match. The defendant reached into his shirt pocket for a match. The man then displayed a large knife and demanded money. The defendant said he then punched the man with his right hand. Simultaneously, the man stabbed the defendant's right arm and ran away. The defendant said he then came to the hospital in a private automobile.

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The police left the hospital and went to the trolley stop described by the defendant. They looked for a weapon or blood, but could find nothing to indicate that a crime had been committed there. Later that night, listening to a news broadcast on commercial radio, the officers heard a bulletin about the murders at 12 Jacobs Street. Recalling that the defendant had said he lived at 24 Jacobs Street, they informed officers of the homicide unit about their encounter with the defendant.

The next day, December 6, 1979, Boston police detective sergeant Robert Bird, detective Warren DeLauria, and detective John Green went to the defendant's house and spoke with the defendant and his girl friend, Donna Dailey. On this occasion the defendant's account of his activities on the night of the murder differed from the account he had given...

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