Com. v. McKay

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtBefore TAURO; WILKINS
Citation294 N.E.2d 213,363 Mass. 220
Decision Date07 March 1973
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH v. Scott A. McKAY.

Page 213

294 N.E.2d 213
363 Mass. 220
COMMONWEALTH

v.
Scott A. McKAY.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.
Argued Jan. 2, 1973.
Decided March 7, 1973.

Page 214

Robert V. Greco, Roslindale, on brief for defendant.

Stephen R. Delinsky, Asst. Dist. Atty., on brief for Commonwealth.

Before TAURO, C.J., and QUIRICO, BRAUCHER, HENNESSEY and WILKINS, JJ.

WILKINS, Justice.

The defendant was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape. He argues

Page 215

that the judge [363 Mass. 221] committed reversible error because (1) women were improperly excluded from the jury, (2) evidence that the victim was a virgin was improperly admitted when her reputation for chastity had not been challenged by the defendant, and (3) the judge failed to instruct the jury properly on the possibility that they might return a verdict for the lesser included offence of simple assault.

The incident occurred in Franklin Park in Boston during the early morning hours of a summer night in 1971. The defendant and the victim had attended a casual gathering of young people on top of a hill in the park where beer had been consumed. The defendant, who was about twenty years old, was ostensibly walking the girl home. She was sixteen. They had not met previously. Most of the young people at the casual gathering were acquaintances of hers. The defendant apparently knew only a few of the persons at the gathering.

The details of the actions of the victim and the defendant are not important to the issues presented to us. It is sufficient to say that, in response to a call that a woman was screaming in the park, a Boston policeman searching the area found the defendant lying on top of the victim, each substantially naked from the waist down. The defendant testified that he had hit the girl to settle her down (there was evidence that she had bruises on her face), that she consented to his subsequent advances, but that because he had been drinking, he was incapable of having intercourse with the girl although he had intended to. She testified that he punched her and forced himself upon her and that she did not consent in any respect to what the defendant did. Other facts bearing on the issues argued to us are set forth below.

1. The defendant first argues that the judge of his own volition excused the first woman who was selected as a juror and that action influenced other women not to serve, with the result that the defendant was denied a fair trial. Because only bench conferences were recorded during the empanelling of the jury, the record does not show the circumstances in which the first woman whose [363 Mass. 222] name was drawn was excused from jury duty. We do know, however, that one woman did in fact sit on the jury. We also know that, at a bench conference at some undefined point in the course of the empanelling of the jury, counsel for the defendant asked the judge to note 'my exception to your Honor's excusing juror 216, the first female called, without explaining whether or not she wishes to sit or not wished to serve (sic).' The judge made no responsive comment, nor was he obliged to. The statement of counsel is not wholly clear as to what appeared to him to have happened.

This prosecution involved a proceeding in which a woman could have been excused from sitting as a juror upon her representation and a determination by the judge that she might be embarrassed if she were to sit. 1 We assume that the judge excused the first woman without explaining to her that she had a right to request that she be excused. Apparently further potential women jurors were excused by the judge and clearly one was seated, in circumstances not directly explained on the record. 2 Defence counsel did not take an exception to the excusing of any other

Page 216

woman, but he did take an exception to the denial of a motion for a mistrial on the ground that '(t)he defendant is not being tried by a representative sampling of the community, having systematically excused the females.' A colloquy between counsel and the judge at this point in the trial suggests that after the first woman to be called was excused, each woman subsequently called as a juror was notified of her right to represent to the court that she would be embarrassed by [363 Mass. 223] serving. The defendant grgues that the action of the judge on his own in excusing the first woman called set a pattern because it may have affected the decision of other women as to whether they would sit.

Our law grants wide discretion to the judge in the jury selection process. G.L. c. 234, § 1A (first paragraph). In the absence of action or inaction which constitutes a denial of constitutional rights (see Ham v. South Carolina, 409 U.S. 524, 93 S.Ct. 848, 35 L.Ed.2d 46 a) or which constitutes an error of law, such as an abuse of discretion, we will not interfere with the trial judge in the jury selection process. On this record there is no basis to conclude that the judge acted improperly. A judge may properly excuse a venireman even in the absence of a defendant and his counsel. Commonwealth v. French, 357 Mass. 356, 400, 259 N.E.2d 195. There was no systematic exclusion of a particular class of potential jurors.

Under G.L. c. 234, § 32, an irregularity in the empanelling of jurors is not sufficient to set aside a verdict unless the objecting party has been injured thereby. Where, at the request of one party, a judge has improperly excluded members of a class of persons from service on a jury, thereby making that party's peremptory challenges relatively more valuable, we have held that the other party is entitled to a new trial. Searle v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, 203 Mass. 493, 89 N.E. 809. In the case before us, however, there is no such general disqualification of a class of persons, the Commonwealth did not request the discharge of the one woman juror who was not excused, and there is no demonstration, as there was in the Searle case, that a party's peremptory challenges were made relatively more valuable by the action of the judge.

Even if the judge did improperly excuse the first woman whose name was called as a juror withour a prior request on her part (an issue which cannot be determined in the defendant's favor on this record), there is no indication that the defendant was denied a fair trial as a result. The defendant does not challenge the statute [363 Mass. 224] under which women may be excused from sitting in a case of this sort. 3 It would be purely

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conjectural to conclude that the first woman would have set a...

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59 practice notes
  • Com. v. Gordon
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 10, 1996
    ...at 531, 615 N.E.2d 155. In Barnoski, supra at 530-531, 638 N.E.2d 9, we called attention to the earlier cases of Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 223, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973), and Commonwealth v. French, 357 Mass. 356, 400, 259 N.E.2d 195 (1970), judgment vacated as to death penalty sub ......
  • Com. v. Campbell
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 7, 1979
    ...selection not reversible error unless objecting party injured thereby or unless objection made before verdict); Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 222-223, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973) (semble) (injury must be shown even if objection timely). We may conclude only that the court officer had the ......
  • Com. v. Hobbs
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • April 28, 1982
    ...convicting him of the lesser included offense." Commonwealth v. Santo, 375 Mass. 299, 305, 376 N.E.2d 866 (1978); Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 228, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973). "(A) judge is not required to instruct on a hypothesis that is not supported by evidence." Commonwealth v. Sant......
  • Commonwealth v. McGhee, SJC–11821.
    • United States
    • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
    • August 13, 2015
    ...her consent in the case of another.” Commonwealth v. Harris, 443 Mass. 714, 722–723, 825 N.E.2d 58 (2005), quoting Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 227, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973). Irrespective of how the defendants have couched their arguments, they seem to be asserting that because C.C. p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
59 cases
  • Com. v. Gordon
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 10, 1996
    ...at 531, 615 N.E.2d 155. In Barnoski, supra at 530-531, 638 N.E.2d 9, we called attention to the earlier cases of Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 223, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973), and Commonwealth v. French, 357 Mass. 356, 400, 259 N.E.2d 195 (1970), judgment vacated as to death penalty sub ......
  • Com. v. Campbell
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 7, 1979
    ...selection not reversible error unless objecting party injured thereby or unless objection made before verdict); Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 222-223, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973) (semble) (injury must be shown even if objection timely). We may conclude only that the court officer had the ......
  • Com. v. Hobbs
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • April 28, 1982
    ...convicting him of the lesser included offense." Commonwealth v. Santo, 375 Mass. 299, 305, 376 N.E.2d 866 (1978); Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 228, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973). "(A) judge is not required to instruct on a hypothesis that is not supported by evidence." Commonwealth v. Sant......
  • Commonwealth v. McGhee, SJC–11821.
    • United States
    • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
    • August 13, 2015
    ...her consent in the case of another.” Commonwealth v. Harris, 443 Mass. 714, 722–723, 825 N.E.2d 58 (2005), quoting Commonwealth v. McKay, 363 Mass. 220, 227, 294 N.E.2d 213 (1973). Irrespective of how the defendants have couched their arguments, they seem to be asserting that because C.C. p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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