Com. v. Izzo

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation267 N.E.2d 631,359 Mass. 39
Decision Date11 March 1971

Stephen Axelrad, Boston (Reuben Goodman, Boston, with him) for defendant.

Matthew J. Ryan, Jr., Dist. Atty., for the Commonwealth.


SPIEGEL, Justice.

The defendant Izzo appeals under G.L. c. 278, §§ 33A--33G, from his convictions on indictments charging him with rape, kidnapping, and assault and battery. A companion case against one Joseph Paige was tried together with this one, but is not before us on appeal. The defendant argues three assignments of error, each of which concerns either the admission or the exclusion of evidence. We summarize only those portions of the evidence pertaining to these assignments.

The complainant testified that on June 5, 1968, she was employed as a junior clerk by the Neighborhood Youth Corps which was located in a building on State Street in the city of Springfield. Her hours of employment were from 8:30 A.M. to 5 P.M. As a part of her employment, when she had a 'problem' that she 'had at work' her 'field foreman' would arrange an appointment for her with her 'counsellor,' also employed by the Neighborhood Youth Corps. His office was in a building located at Oak and Union streets in Springfield. On the day in question, she left her office to keep an appointment with her counsellor. She 'went through the back way' and onto Charter Avenue, a narrow unpaved alleyway behind the State Street building, which was a shortcut to the building located at the corner of Oak and Union Streets. She arrived there at 2:30 P.M. and concluded her visit at 3:30 P.M., at which time she proceeded to return to her office.

As she was walking back and had turned onto Charter Avenue she saw a grey car parked in an opening just ahead. Izzo and Paige were seated on motorcycles next to the car. As she approached, Izzo called her 'sweet britches.' She ignored him. When she tried to 'go behind the car * * * there was a blond (male) in the car that moved the car backwards,' and he continued to move the car back and forth as she attempted to proceed. She tried 'to get away' but Paige 'grabbed * * * (her) by the arm' and he had his hand over her mouth as he was pushing her toward the car. She was forced into 'the front seat between * * * (Page) and the blond headed guy.' While in the car, Paige 'had his one hand on the back of * * * (her) neck and one on * * * (her) mouth.' Her head was forced down on his lap. As the car began to move, she heard a motorcycle following it. They arrived at a house where Paige 'said to go into the house like a young lady, and he had something in * * * (her) back and he said if you try to run, I will put it through your back and it was a sharp point.'

She was 'very scared and nervous' and after being forced into the house, Page 'dragged' her into a bedroom while she was crying and was trying to get away. Paige slapped her in the face, ripped her clothing off, 'put his tongue into * * * (her) private' and raped her. Izzo then came into the bedroom. 'He was screaming and he started choking' her; then he raped her. Afterward, when she threatened to go to the police, Izzo stated that if she did, Paige would 'cut * * * (her) up.' After Paige and Izzo left the house the complainant found her pocketbook on the living room floor. It was 'ransacked * * * all opened and everything.' Only twenty cents remained of close to $3 that had been in the pocketbook. After leaving the house, she observed Izzo following her. She ran into a drug store, 'couldn't see no phone' whereupon she 'ran right back out' and 'ran down' to a telephone booth. Unable to reach her mother, she telephoned one of her girl friends. Thereupon, she walked downtown where, about 6 P.M., one William Cole, whom she knew, 'picked' her up in his car. 1 After talking with Cole, he urged her to go immediately to the police. She was extremely scared and had seen Izzo's motorcycle parked outside a cafe. Subsequently, she and Cole met two of her girl friends, conversed with them while driving around, and again saw Izzo's motorcycle. After her two girl friends left the car, Cole drove her home where she spoke to her mother. About 10:30 P.M. she and her mother were driven to the police station by Cole.

At the station, two officers asked the complainant a series of questions, the answers to which they reduced to a narrative statement which she signed. It was prepared between 10:30 P.M. and 2:45 A.M. In the interim, Izzo was arrested.

Each of the Commonwealth's six witnesses testified that the complainant was highly distraught and physically bruised when they observed her on the evening of June 5.

In the first argued assignment, the defendant alleges error in the admission of the written statement given by the victim to the police several hours after the commission of the crimes. He asserts that it was hearsay and inadmissible as fresh complaint because: (1) it lacked promptness; (2) it was not sufficiently voluntary; and (3) the fresh complaint exception to the hearsay rule does not allow introduction of a written statement by the victim but is limited to the testimony of a witness concerning the victim's verbal complaint that she has been raped.

With regard to the defendant's first contention that the complaint was not prompt, it is clear that it was 'part of a continuous series of complaints.' Commonwealth v. Howard, 355 Mass. 526, 530, 246 N.E.2d 419, 421. She attempted to call her mother immediately after the crimes, spoke to Cole who suggested she go to the police, conversed with two of her girl friends, spoke to her mother, and then, together with Cole and her mother, went to the police. Although the content of these conversations was not explored at the trial, 2 the inference is readily apparent that the events which took place that afternoon were discussed. In addition, the fear instilled in her by Izzo's statement that Paige would 'cut * * * (her) up' and her knowledge that Izzo was still in the vicinity, having twice seen his motorcycle, could readily explain any delay in not making an immediate complaint to the police. In the circumstances, we are of opinion that there was no unreasonable delay in making the complaint.

Concerning the defendant's second and third contentions that the complaint was not voluntary and that it was inadmissible in written form, we discern no occasion to review the cases (see e.g. Commonwealth v. Cleary, 172 Mass. 175, 176--177, 51 N.E. 746; Commonwealth v. Ellis, 319 Mass. 627, 630, 67 N.E.2d 234; Commonwealth v. Howard, 355 Mass. 526, 530, 246 N.E.2d 419; COMMONWEALTH V. HANGER, MASS. , 258 N.E.2D 555)A involving the admission of oral evidence of fresh complaint in a rape case to confirm the general testimony of the victim. Whatever error, if any, there might have been in admitting in evidence the written statement given by this victim to the police (and we do not decide there was any such error), this victim's statements to the police were merely a summary of her oral testimony at trial. They were plainly cumulative in effect, and therefore they were not prejudicial. Commonwealth v. Howard, 355 Mass. 526, 530, 246 N.E.2d 419. It is well established that '(t)he admission of evidence that is merely cumulative of evidence already given by a witness does not commonly constitute reversible error.' Commonwealth v. Mannos, 311 Mass. 94, 115, 40 N.E.2d 291, 302, and cases cited. In the Howard case, supra, 355 Mass. at 530, 246 N.E.2d 419, this court held that erroneously admitted statements were not prejudicial, particularly because they were cumulative of the victim's testimony. In the present circumstances, the complainant's testimony, and the clear inferences to be drawn from her conversations with her mother, her girl friends and Cole, plus the evidence of her physical condition as related by six of the Commonwealth's witnesses, all tend to...

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