Com. v. MacKenzie

Decision Date21 August 1992
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Bruce R. Taub, Boston, for defendant.

Rosemary D. Mellor, Asst. Dist. Atty., for the Com.


LIACOS, Chief Justice.

The defendant, James G. MacKenzie, and James Judge, were each charged with the murder in the first degree of Lois Wentworth, a sixty-two year old resident of Wayland who, at the time of her death, was the defendant's neighbor. The two men were tried separately. On appeal from his convictions, 1 the defendant argues that: (1) testimony pertaining to the confession of James Judge, who had implicated the defendant in the crimes and who did not testify at trial, was admitted in evidence improperly in contravention of the defendant's right under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution to confront the witnesses against him; (2) the judge erred in denying his motion for a required finding of not guilty of murder; (3) evidence arising from a custodial interrogation of the defendant was introduced in evidence in violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966); (4) the judge erred in admitting evidence that was seized without a warrant from the home of the defendant's mother; (5) the prosecutor asked several improper questions during his cross-examination of the defendant; (6) the judge erred by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of burglary when instructing the jury on the charge of armed burglary with assault, and (7) the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. We affirm.

We summarize the evidence presented at trial. The defendant lived at 23 Doran Road in Wayland, diagonally across the street from the victim. Approximately one month prior to Wentworth's murder, the defendant visited her with a friend, Robert W. McCall, to inquire whether McCall could rent a small cottage that was located on Wentworth's property. 2 Wentworth was reluctant to rent the cottage because it had fallen into disrepair. Eventually, she agreed to rent the cottage after McCall agreed to clean and repair it in exchange for a reduced rental rate.

In the middle of May, 1986, the defendant met McCall at the cottage to remove Wentworth's belongings. In the course of this undertaking, McCall told the defendant that he could keep anything he could "make a buck on." The defendant kept some silverware and other items. The defendant also kept some prescription pills. He told McCall he planned to check a Physician's Desk Reference to determine whether the prescriptions could make him "high." At trial, McCall testified that the defendant's eyes "lit up" when he discovered the prescription bottles and that, after the defendant had returned home, the defendant wondered if there were any more prescriptions "back over there." McCall further testified that, in the course of cleaning the cottage, the two men packed three boxes with pots, pans, books, and old pictures and that they brought these boxes to Wentworth in her home.

On June 5, 1986, Wentworth's body was discovered on her livingroom floor by her daily "Meals On Wheels" delivery person. Wentworth had been stabbed, beaten, and suffocated. 3 Her house had been ransacked. A television was blaring loudly in the livingroom. Empty prescription bottles were strewn across a table. Many of the victim's belongings were scattered about the house and the telephone cord had been pulled from the wall. However, the three boxes from the "little house" were left undisturbed in the livingroom.

Detective Sandra O'Brien of the Wayland police department was among the officers assigned to investigate Wentworth's murder. In the course of interviewing the victim's neighbors, she interviewed the defendant on June 9, 1986. The defendant told Detective O'Brien that he had been to the victim's house a month earlier and had helped McCall clean out the cottage. The defendant further stated that he had been home in bed with an eye injury on June 4 and June 5. 4 The defendant concluded the interview by stating that he was "sorry that [he couldn't] be of more assistance."

On June 12, 1986, Detective O'Brien asked the defendant if he would be willing to go with her to the State police offices in Cambridge for questioning. The defendant agreed and they arrived at approximately 6:30 P.M., where he met with Trooper Joseph Flaherty. Flaherty read the defendant his Miranda rights, and the defendant signed a card indicating that he understood his rights, that he was voluntarily waiving them, and that he wished to speak with the police.

Trooper Flaherty commenced his interview with the defendant in a conference room that was adjacent to an open office area. In response to Flaherty's questioning, the defendant stated that he had been to Wentworth's house a month earlier to help McCall clean out the cottage, and he reiterated that he had been home in bed with an eye injury on the night of the murder. At some point during the interview, Trooper Flaherty left the room to take a telephone call. On the basis of information he received during this call, Trooper Flaherty arranged to have James Judge brought to the station for questioning. 5

Judge arrived at the barracks at approximately 9:15 P.M., at which time Trooper Flaherty escorted the defendant out of the conference room and through the office area where Judge was standing. Judge and the defendant, who knew each other, passed within a couple of feet but did not acknowledge each other's presence. At trial, Flaherty testified that he orchestrated this encounter so that, while the two men were being interviewed in separate rooms, each would draw the inference that the other was providing the police with information.

After situating Judge and the defendant in separate rooms, Flaherty interviewed Judge for approximately fifteen minutes. He returned to the defendant and indicated that the police had information that the defendant was involved in Wentworth's murder. 6 The defendant denied any involvement. Subsequently, Flaherty left the room and spoke with Judge again. He then returned to the defendant, and the defendant again denied any involvement in the murder. Flaherty left the room a third time and spoke to Judge for approximately one hour. During this time, Judge confessed. Flaherty again returned to the office where the defendant was seated and, after reminding the defendant that he had been advised of his Miranda rights, informed the defendant that Judge had "made a statement." Reading from his notes, Flaherty stated that he knew that the defendant and Judge had broken into Wentworth's home to rob her, that they had been wearing masks and gloves, that they had ransacked the house looking for money the defendant believed to be located in the house, and that the defendant had yelled and screamed at Wentworth. Flaherty further stated that he knew that the two men had beaten Wentworth, that the defendant had attempted to suffocate her with a pillow, and that the defendant had retrieved a large knife from the kitchen, handed the knife to Judge, and that Judge stabbed Wentworth. As Flaherty confronted the defendant with these details of Judge's confession, the defendant sat with a sullen look and listened to what Flaherty was saying. Eventually, Flaherty informed the defendant that Judge was "taking the blame" for stabbing Wentworth. At this point, the defendant looked up and said "Well, he should, he's the one who did it." When Flaherty asked the defendant if he wanted to explain what happened, the defendant responded, "We never meant to hurt the woman." Trooper Flaherty then asked the defendant if he had "done anything" to Wentworth, and the defendant responded, "No." Finally, Flaherty asked the defendant if he had done anything to stop Judge from hurting Wentworth. The defendant responded that he had not, that Judge was "acting crazy," and that Judge had threatened him with a knife. At this point the defendant indicated that he wished to stop the interview. Questioning ceased, and he was placed under arrest.

Dr. Vernard Adams, a medical examiner for the Commonwealth, testified as to the nature of Wentworth's injuries. Dr. Adams testified that he found numerous bruises on Wentworth's chest and abdomen, on the sides and top of her head, and on the left side of her back. Additionally her ribs were fractured in seventeen locations. According to Dr. Adams, these injuries were consistent with Wentworth's having been beaten by two men with great force. In addition, Dr. Adams noted signs that Wentworth had been suffocated, and he observed a knife wound on the left side of her back. According to Dr. Adams, these wounds were consistent with Wentworth's having been suffocated with a pillow while simultaneously being stabbed with a "kitchen-type" knife. 7 Dr. Adams further testified that the victim had sustained a laceration to her left forearm, a wound which Dr. Adams characterized as a "defense wound." See note 3, supra. Finally, Dr. Adams testified that, in his opinion, all Wentworth's injuries were inflicted while she was alive and that she could have survived those injuries for several minutes to "a couple of hours."

The defendant testified as the sole defense witness. He testified that he was home in bed on June 4 as the result of an injury and that, at 2 or 3 A.M. on June 5, 1986, he was awakened by James Judge, who was holding a knife. According to the defendant, Judge was crying and kept repeating that "he never meant to hurt the woman." The defendant further testified that Judge asked him for drugs and that, when the defendant responded that he did not have any drugs, Judge threatened him with the knife and began "tearing up" the defendant's room. According to the defendant, this episode lasted approximately ten...

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