Com. v. Mayfield

Decision Date25 November 1986
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

John J. Bonistalli, Boston, for defendant.

Margaret Steen Melville, Asst. Dist. Atty. (Jane A. Donohue and Ronald Moynahan, Asst. Dist. Attys., with her), for the Com.


WILKINS, Justice.

About 2 A.M. on August 2, 1983, the body of eleven year old Mary Ann Hanley was found in a wooded area of Ronan Park in the Dorchester section of Boston. The victim was dead, her shorts and underwear were down by one ankle, and her face and genitalia bloodied. About two and one-half months later, largely on the basis of recently disclosed testimony of one Kevin Gallagher who claimed to have been an eyewitness to the homicide, the defendant, Val Mayfield, was indicted for murder in the first degree and rape of a child under sixteen years of age. At his first trial in April, 1984, the jury found the defendant not guilty of rape and were unable to reach a verdict on the murder indictment. At a second trial on the murder indictment, in November, 1984, the jury found the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree.

The defendant argues a variety of objections to his conviction and asks for relief under G.L. c. 278, § 33E (1984 ed.). The issue that attracts our particular attention concerns deficiencies in the presentation of evidence to the grand jury which indicted the defendant, deficiencies that the defendant argues undercut the integrity of the grand jury proceedings and require the dismissal of the indictment. We reject both this argument and those contentions urged as grounds for reversal of the conviction, and, after considering the defendant's § 33E argument, we affirm the judgment.

We start with an outline of relevant circumstances known to the police prior to the time the eyewitness Gallagher came forth with his description of the homicide. The defendant, the father of a child by a half-sister of the victim, lived with the victim and her family on Mt. Ida Road in Dorchester, not far from Ronan Park, a large park with several baseball fields, a basketball court, and tennis courts. On August 1, 1983, about 7 P.M., the defendant stole a gym bag belonging to one Ruiz. He took the bag to Ronan Park, removed from it sneakers, which he put on, and gave the bag and its remaining contents to others who were gathered in the area. Ruiz, who had discovered that Mayfield had taken his gym bag, went to the defendant's residence, but the defendant was not there. He returned about 8:15 P.M., and spoke to the victim, who pointed out the defendant. Ruiz then confronted Mayfield, who surrendered the sneakers and told Ruiz what he had done with the bag and its contents.

Shortly thereafter a group of youths including the victim, Mayfield, and Gallagher gathered on the porch of a house across from the park. About 9 P.M., most of the group went to see a motion picture. Gallagher left with the group but did not go to the movies. About this time the victim and the defendant headed toward home in the opposite direction, but shortly the defendant returned to the porch for a brief time. Later that night, when Mary Ann was reported missing, a search of the park was conducted. A neighbor found her body in a tunnel-like area of the park created by overhanging vegetation and carried it to the top of an embankment. She was dead.

In the following days the police obtained certain information that pointed to Mayfield as a suspect. The defendant told Detective Robert F. Ahearn of the Boston police department shortly after the death that he had walked the victim part way home and then had left her when he recalled he had to meet a friend named John at a pizza shop. When pressed, the defendant said John's last name was Vasquez. Investigation did not uncover a John Vasquez. Ahearn noticed three vertical scratches on the defendant's neck which the defendant said one Joey Doyle had given during a wrestling match. There was evidence that Doyle had bitten his nails to the degree that he could not have scratched the defendant. On August 9, 1983, the defendant gave an interview to the police. Toward the end of the interview when confronted with the accusation, "You did it. You did it. Why don't you tell us about it," Mayfield replied that he needed time to think. 1

Kevin Gallagher first spoke to the police on October 17, 1983, and testified before the grand jury four days later. Gallagher had acknowledged to a family friend that he had been present when the victim was killed, and the friend in turn told the police. Gallagher's story of what happened on the night of August 1, 1983, was substantially the same before the grand jury and at trial.

After separating that night from the group of youths who were headed to a motion picture, Gallagher started to walk home, but changed his mind and went to Ronan Park. On entering the park, Gallagher saw the defendant and the victim. He asked them where they were going, and the defendant said, "I have to do something. Well, you'd better come along, too." The three went to the tunnel-like area of the park.

When they arrived there the defendant asked the victim why earlier that night she had identified him to Ruiz. She replied that she had not done so. The defendant began to hit her about the face. She started to cry and called out for help. Gallagher tried to intervene but desisted when the defendant told him to remain where he was standing. He made no further effort to aid the victim.

The defendant knocked the victim to the ground, face down by a tree limb. When on his demand the victim did not get up, he grabbed her by the hair and smashed her face on the tree limb four times. The victim moved no more. The defendant turned her on her back and placed his fingers under her nose to see if she was breathing. He then took her pants down and raped her. He turned to Gallagher and said that he would kill Gallagher and his family if Gallagher told anybody what had happened. He also told Gallagher that he had killed the victim because she was a "rat" and that he had raped her to throw suspicion off himself. Gallagher then went home. Several days later, the defendant threatened him with death if he revealed that the defendant had killed the victim.

1. We consider first the defendant's claim that a detective's false statements to the grand jury impaired the integrity of the grand jury proceedings that led to his indictment. Our discussion starts with consideration of the standards to be applied in assessing such a challenge and concludes with consideration of the specific circumstances on which the defendant relies.

Although generally the adequacy or competency of evidence before a grand jury is not a matter for judicial inquiry (Commonwealth v. Robinson, 373 Mass. 591, 592, 368 N.E.2d 1210 [1977] ), we will consider whether grand jury evidence was sufficient to warrant a finding of probable cause (Commonwealth v. McCarthy, 385 Mass. 160, 163, 480 N.E.2d 1195 [1982] ) and whether the defendant has shown that the integrity of the grand jury proceedings was impaired (Commonwealth v. O'Dell, 392 Mass. 445, 449-450, 466 N.E.2d 828 [1984] ). Because a purported eyewitness to the victim's death testified before the grand jury, we are concerned here only with the claim that the integrity of the grand jury proceeding was impaired.

We must deal with such a question case by case. It is unlikely that we could devise a satisfactory, comprehensive statement of what conduct does, and what conduct does not, impair the integrity of the grand jury process. We have recognized possible impairment if a prosecutor were to deceive grand jurors by presenting remote hearsay in the guise of direct testimony. Commonwealth v. St. Pierre, 377 Mass. 650, 655, 387 N.E.2d 1135 (1979). We have indicated that inaccurate statements made in good faith do not require dismissal of an indictment. Commonwealth v. Reddington, 395 Mass. 315, 320, 480 N.E.2d 6 (1985). We have never held that an indictment should be dismissed if a witness or prosecutor reasonably should have known (a negligence standard), but did not know, that the witness's testimony was false. In such a case, the prosecutor and the witness would not have intended to use false testimony to procure an indictment, and dismissal of an indictment as a prophylactic measure to discourage intentional wrongdoing could have no application. We have said, however, that if the Commonwealth or one of its agents knowingly uses false testimony to procure an indictment, the indictment should be dismissed, and a prosecutor who learns of the use of the knowingly false, material evidence has a duty to come forward. See Commonwealth v. Salman, 387 Mass. 160, 166-167, 439 N.E.2d 245 (1982).

In certain instances, the failure to disclose known information may impair the grand jury proceedings. For example, presentation of a defendant's inculpatory statements recorded in a police report, distorted by the intentional failure to disclose the defendant's exculpatory comments interspersed in that report, impaired grand jury proceedings and required dismissal of the indictment in Commonwealth v. O'Dell, 392 Mass. 445, 448-449, 466 N.E.2d 828 (1984). Similarly, we have indicated that a grand jury should be told of known exculpatory evidence that would greatly undermine the credibility of an important witness. See Commonwealth v. Connor, 392 Mass. 838, 854, 467 N.E.2d 1340 (1984).

To sustain a claim that the integrity of the grand jury proceeding has been impaired, not only must the evidence have been given with knowledge that it was false or deceptive, but the false or deceptive evidence must probably have been significant in the view of the grand jury and must have been presented with the intention of obtaining an indictment. Thus, a police officer's knowing and intentional presentation of...

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