Com. v. McCra

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtBefore WILKINS; LYNCH
Citation427 Mass. 564,694 N.E.2d 849
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH v. Gerard A. McCRA, Third.
Decision Date03 June 1998

Page 849

694 N.E.2d 849
427 Mass. 564
COMMONWEALTH

v.
Gerard A. McCRA, Third.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,
Plymouth.
Argued April 7, 1998.
Decided June 3, 1998.

Page 850

Dana Alan Curhan, Boston, for defendant.

Gail M. McKenna, Assistant District Attorney, Brockton, for Commonwealth.

Before WILKINS, C.J., and ABRAMS, LYNCH, FRIED and MARSHALL, JJ.

LYNCH, Justice.

A jury convicted the defendant of murder in the first degree by reason of deliberate premeditation for the killing of his father, mother, and sister. The defendant was fifteen years old when he committed the murders and confessed to having done so. 1 He argues on appeal that his admissions and confessions were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. The defendant also requests we exercise our plenary power under G.L. c. 278, § 33E, to reduce or to overturn the verdicts. We reject the defendant's argument and conclude there is no basis for relief under G.L. c. 278, § 33E.

[427 Mass. 565] 1. Facts. The jury would have been warranted in finding the following facts: on October 9, 1993, after arguing with his parents, the defendant became angry and decided to kill them. He broke into his grandfather's quarters in the house that they shared and took a gun which he checked to be sure it was loaded. Later on in the day, while his father and his sister were about to leave in the family automobile, he asked to accompany them. He then went inside the house, shot his mother in the back of the head, returned to the waiting automobile, and shot his sister and his father each in the back of the head.

Page 851

He drove the automobile to an area behind the house and moved his mother's body into his sister's room, locked the door, attempted to clean the bloodied areas, showered, and changed. With the bodies out of view he invited a female friend to visit him, which she did, and they spent the night together in his room.

The next day the defendant, his two aunts, and several cousins went to the Rochester police department to report the missing family members. Two hours later, the police went to the family's house, noticed a broken window and numerous red stains throughout the house, which the defendant explained as being caused by his sister's painting birdhouses red. After several hours the police found the victims' bodies and soon thereafter the defendant admitted to being involved in the killing of his family and was placed under arrest.

2. The defendant's statements. At a suppression hearing, the judge found the following facts. At approximately 9 P.M. on October 10, 1993, Chief Walter Denham introduced himself to one of the defendant's aunts, and at his request she agreed to act as the defendant's guardian.

Chief Denham advised the defendant and his aunt of the defendant's Miranda rights. They both indicated they understood the rights and signed forms acknowledging their understanding. The defendant was relaxed, calm, coherent, and responsive to all police questioning. The questions were asked one at a time and the defendant understood the questions. His aunt was present throughout the questioning and understood the questions. The questioning lasted approximately twenty to twenty-five minutes. During this period, the defendant made no admissions. There was no demonstration of animosity, hostility, or arguments between the defendant and his aunt.

State Trooper Paul Petrino also questioned the defendant for [427 Mass. 566] about one hour after which there was a ten-to-fifteen minute break. Petrino spoke with the defendant's aunt before again questioning the defendant. She once more agreed to act as guardian on the defendant's behalf. There was no hostility shown between the defendant and his aunt. The defendant and his aunt were again read the Miranda rights and both stated they understood. His aunt did not press the defendant to answer the questions; he answered responsively and was coherent.

After a break at approximately 11:15 P.M., the questioning was resumed by State Trooper Leonard Coopenrath, who again administered Miranda warnings to the defendant and his aunt. Both said they understood and signed the forms. The defendant's aunt listened carefully to the questions asked of the defendant.

At approximately 12:30 A.M. on October 11, 1993, State Police Lieutenant Bruce Gordon interrupted the questioning. Gordon spoke with the defendant's aunt and told her that something bad had happened to her family and that he wished to speak with the defendant. She indicated her willingness to continue to act as guardian and displayed no animosity toward the defendant nor had any reservations concerning her guardianship. Gordon did not seek her aid or assistance in the questioning, nor did she act as an agent for the Commonwealth.

Gordon told the defendant that something bad had happened to his family and that the defendant was involved. The defendant responded that he knew his rights and, when Gordon restated and emphasized the Miranda warnings, that he did not have to say anything.

At that point, Gordon and the defendant heard a police officer state in a loud voice that the bodies had been found. The defendant told Gordon that he wanted to talk to only one person. Gordon got up to leave because he thought the defendant was indicating a desire to speak alone with his aunt. The defendant then stated to Gordon, "No I want to talk to you." His aunt agreed to leave the immediate area but remained close by. She was not asked to leave by Gordon. She knew she did not have to leave and believed she could have stopped the interview if she wanted or could have remained in the room.

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15 practice notes
  • Com. v. Guthrie G., No. 05-P-47.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • June 5, 2006
    ...was afforded an opportunity to consult with an interested adult who was informed of and understood those rights." Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 567, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998). There is no question that the juvenile and his father were together when Officer Lake read them the Miranda rig......
  • Commonwealth v. Weaver, SJC–10932.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 20, 2016
    ...that a defendant may offer evidence that a relative's involvement in questioning about a crime is coercive. See Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 569, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998) ; Commonwealth v. Adams, 416 Mass. 55, 60–61, 617 N.E.2d 594 (1993). The pretrial motion judge concluded that alth......
  • Commonwealth v. Pacheco, No. 13–P–1821.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • April 17, 2015
    ...was afforded an opportunity to consult with an interested adult who was informed of and understood those rights.” Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 567, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998).5 Whether the juvenile had a “realistic opportunity” to consult is the critical question, not whether he actuall......
  • Commonwealth v. Quint Q., No. 12–P–1154.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • November 12, 2013
    ...to obtaining a Miranda waiver.” Commonwealth v. Leon L., 52 Mass.App.Ct. 823, 826, 756 N.E.2d 1162 (2001), citing Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 567, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998). Viewed from the perspective of the interviewing officers, the adult, objectively, “must have the capacity to ap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Com. v. Guthrie G., No. 05-P-47.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • June 5, 2006
    ...was afforded an opportunity to consult with an interested adult who was informed of and understood those rights." Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 567, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998). There is no question that the juvenile and his father were together when Officer Lake read them the Miranda rig......
  • Commonwealth v. Weaver, SJC–10932.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 20, 2016
    ...that a defendant may offer evidence that a relative's involvement in questioning about a crime is coercive. See Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 569, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998) ; Commonwealth v. Adams, 416 Mass. 55, 60–61, 617 N.E.2d 594 (1993). The pretrial motion judge concluded that alth......
  • Commonwealth v. Pacheco, No. 13–P–1821.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • April 17, 2015
    ...was afforded an opportunity to consult with an interested adult who was informed of and understood those rights.” Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 567, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998).5 Whether the juvenile had a “realistic opportunity” to consult is the critical question, not whether he actuall......
  • Commonwealth v. Quint Q., No. 12–P–1154.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • November 12, 2013
    ...to obtaining a Miranda waiver.” Commonwealth v. Leon L., 52 Mass.App.Ct. 823, 826, 756 N.E.2d 1162 (2001), citing Commonwealth v. McCra, 427 Mass. 564, 567, 694 N.E.2d 849 (1998). Viewed from the perspective of the interviewing officers, the adult, objectively, “must have the capacity to ap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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