Com. v. Scott

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation355 Mass. 471,245 N.E.2d 415
PartiesCOMMONWEALTH v. Christopher SCOTT et al. 1
Decision Date11 March 1969

Lawrence D. Shubow, Boston, for defendant Scott.

Walter T. Healty, Boston, for defendant Meyers.

William J. Doyle, Asst. Dist. Atty., for the Commonwealth.


The defendants were convicted of the crime of robbery and now bring these appeals pursuant to G.L. c. 278, §§ 33A--33G, as amended. We have before us a summary of the record, assignments of error by each defendant and a transcript of the evidence. The defendants and one Warren Mongo were placed on trial on two indictments, one charging robbery of Mary Francis and the other charging murder of the same person. The indictments were consolidated for trial. The trial commenced on December 11, 1967, and consumed ten days. On the third day of the trial Mongo pleaded guilty to second degree murder and robbery. As to both remaining defendants, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on the robbery indictment and not guilty on the murder indictment. The facts which could have been found by the jury are as follows.

On March 6, 1967, in the early afternoon, Mary Francis was walking on the sidewalk on Harvard Street in Dorchester. An elderly man was walking behind her. Following him and also walking in the same direction were two girls and a boy who were the principal witnesses for the Commonwealth. (The elderly man, Barney Sahl, was unable to testify at the trial due to illness.)

The testimony of the three principal witnesses for the Commonwealth was that they saw three boys go past them at a fast walking pace. One of them was the defendant Scott to whom one of the girls spoke as he passed. The three boys moved on ahead together, trotting as they approached Mrs. Francis. One of the 'teenage' girls testified that she saw one of the boys run ahead of Mrs. Francis and then turn back and grab her pocketbook. This individual was identified as Mongo. The two boys with him proceeded to a point within five to seven feet of Mrs. Francis. At this time Mongo was struggling with Mrs. Francis who was then seen to fall back, her head striking the sidewalk with an impact that could be heard. Mongo took the handbag, whereupon the three boys, including Scott and a boy who resembled a photograph of Meyers, turned and ran back on Harvard Street in the direction from whence they had come. All of this happened very quickly. Mrs. Francis was taken to the Boston City Hospital where she remained with a fracture of the skull and other injuries until her death on March 14, 1967. Following this incident Mongo gave the defendant Scott a quarter and the defendant Meyers a dollar. The handbag had contained $10. On the evening of March 8, 1967, an oil burner serviceman in the cellar of the house where Mongo lived observed seven or eight handbags on the basement floor, one of which was the handbag taken from Mrs. Francis. He took this handbag, together with several papers lying on the floor, to the police. Subsequently, on March 9, 1967, Scott, Mongo and a third boy (not Meyers) were placed under arrest in Mongo's house. The defendant Meyers was not apprehended until April 12, 1967, when he surrendered at his mother's home and was placed under arrest on a murder indictment warrant.

1. We first consider the defendants' assignments of error based on the denial of their motions for directed verdicts. There was no error in the denial of these motions. The evidence summarized above permitted the inference that the two defendants, in company with Mongo, were together engaged in snatching a handbag from an aged victim. Commonwealth v. Conroy, 333 Mass. 751, 752--755, especially at pp. 754--755, 133 N.E.2d 246. In that case Conroy, a resident of Providence, Rhode Island, was present outside a restaurant in New Bedford about 4:15 A.M., a time close to that at which the jury could have found the restaurant was burglarized. The jury, from circumstantial evidence and false explanations by Conroy indicating that his presence was not innocent, were permitted to infer guilt. Common purpose may be inferred from evidence of concerted action and circumstantial evidence indicating the existence of a common enterprise. See Commonwealth v. Beal, 314 Mass. 210, 221--224, 50 N.E.2d 14; Commonwealth v. David, 335 Mass. 686, 693--695, 141 N.E.2d 827. In the present case there was sufficient evidence adduced to permit the jury to conclude that each defendant was a participant in the robbery enterprise. See People v. Marx, 291 Ill. 40, 48--49, 125 N.E. 719; State v. DeFalco, 8 N.J.Super, 295, 74 A.2d 338, cert. den. 5 N.J. 483, 76 A.2d 22. Compare Commonwealth v. Fancy, 349 Mass. 196, 200, 207 N.E.2d 276. The jury were entitled to infer that each defendant was aware of Mongo's intentions and took part in framing them.

2. Each defendant argues that the verdict against him of guilty of robbery was obviously a compromise and cannot stand, and that it is inconsistent with his acquittal of murder in that if he participated in the robbery he was guilty of a felony murder. That breed of 'inconsistent' verdicts which is not allowed to stand under our cases is small indeed and is best illustrated by Commonwealth v. Haskins, 128 Mass. 60, a case where the defendant was found guilty both of Larceny and of receiving stolen goods. However, the rule is well established in criminal cases that mere inconsistency in verdicts, one of which is an acquittal, will not render the verdict of guilty erroneous even though such inconsistency may have indicated the possibility of compromise on the part of the jury. Commonwealth v. McCarthy, 348 Mass. 7, 14, 200 N.E.2d 264; Dunn v. United States, 284 U.S. 390, 393--394, 52 S.Ct. 189, 76 L.Ed. 356. See Borum v. United States, 284 U.S. 596, 52 S.Ct. 205, 76 L.Ed. 513. It was not necessary that the verdicts be consistent on the separate indictments. As was pointed out in the Dunn case, that the same evidence was offered in support of each indictment would not permit an acquittal on one to be pleaded as res judicata of the other.

3. The defendant Scott in his assignment No. 4 alleges that the court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial and in failing to order removal of certain papers from an exhibit because of the prosecutor's allegedly improper remarks during argument relative to the commission of cllateral crimes. These papers were contained in the victim's pocketbook found by the oil burner serviceman. In argument, allusion was made by the prosecutor a number of times to the possibility that the defendants had stolen the other pocketbooks found near that of the victim and that conceivably on this occasion it was the turn of Mongo to retain the major proceeds of the crime. Prior to instruction of the jury the defendant Scott moved to have removed from the pocketbook the papers not identified with the victim, and based his motion for mistrial on the prosecutor's allegedly prejudicial remarks. Both motions were denied.

At the time the pocketbook was admitted in evidence with the papers, the defendant Scott did not object to its admission and, hence, cannot now be heard to complain. Commonwealth v. Doyle, 323 Mass. 633, 634--635, 84 N.E.2d 20; Commonwealth v. Theberge, 330 Mass. 520, 527, 115 N.E.2d 719. The judge gave careful instructions that only items identified with the victim could be considered by the jury in their deliberations.

When the prosecutor made the alleged prejudicial remarks during his argument, the defendant Scott did not object, and furthermore the judge in his charge warned the jury to disregard the remarks of the district attorney relative to any other possible crimes. It is our view that the instruction, phrased as it was, amply covered the lapses of the prosecutor's argument. Certainly the judge gave sufficient emphasis to what he had to say about these items to make it clear to the jury what they should and should not consider relative to (a) the contents of the pocketbook, and (b) other handbag snatching incidents in which the prosecutor said the defendants might...

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  • Commonwealth v. Andrade
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • October 5, 2021
    ...523, 924 N.E.2d 713 (2010). It is "not necessary that the verdicts be consistent on the separate indictments." Commonwealth v. Scott, 355 Mass. 471, 475, 245 N.E.2d 415 (1969). Depending on their view of the evidence, the jury properly could have convicted the defendant of murder in the fir......
  • Com. v. Bongarzone
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • October 13, 1983
    ...(1978), cert. denied sub nom. Wideman v. Massachusetts, 440 U.S. 923, 99 S.Ct. 1252, 59 L.Ed.2d 477 (1979). Commonwealth v. Scott, 355 Mass. 471, 477-478, 245 N.E.2d 415 (1969). We need not decide whether the rationale of Parker applies to this case since any error was harmless beyond a rea......
  • Com. v. Medeiros, 07-P-418.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • January 26, 2009
    ...even though such inconsistency may have indicated the possibility of compromise on the part of the jury." Commonwealth v. Scott, 355 Mass. 471, 475, 245 N.E.2d 415 (1969). We have said that this "rule recognizes the power, possibly salutary, of juries to compromise and to act out of lenienc......
  • Com. v. French
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • May 4, 1970
    ...discretion. No abuse of discretion has been shown. Commonwealth v. Fancy, 349 Mass. 196, 204, 207 N.E.2d 276. See Commonwealth v. Scott, 355 Mass. 471, 476--478, 245 N.E.2d 415.a. Mass.Adv.Sh. (1969) 923, 926--929.12 Our cases have viewed admissions as different from confessions. See Common......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Hypocrisy and Bail—The Policy Reasons For Preventive Detention
    • United States
    • Prison Journal, The No. 50-2, October 1970
    • October 1, 1970
    ...Hearings, Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, 91st Cong., 1st Session, p. 18 (1969). See also the com- ment in comm. v. Scott, 245 N.E. 2d 415 at 420 (Mass. Supra note 12 at 23. 47 In addition, preventive detention has received widespread support in recent months and years. Both t......

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