Commonwealth v. Holley, SJC–12130

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtLENK, J.
Citation478 Mass. 508,87 N.E.3d 77
Parties COMMONWEALTH v. Reginald HOLLEY (and five companion cases ).
Decision Date14 December 2017
Docket NumberSJC–12130

478 Mass. 508
87 N.E.3d 77

COMMONWEALTH
v.
Reginald HOLLEY (and five companion cases 1 ).

SJC–12130

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk..

Argued September 8, 2017.
Decided December 14, 2017.


Elizabeth A. Billowitz, Boston, for Reginald Holley.

Neil L. Fishman for Oasis Pritchett.

87 N.E.3d 82

Cailin M. Campbell, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Budd, & Kafker, JJ.

LENK, J.

478 Mass. 509

On the morning of October 17, 2012, Alfonso Rivas was in his apartment building anticipating a sale of marijuana to Reginald Holley when Rivas was fatally shot in the head. Holley and Oasis Pritchett were convicted of felony-murder in the first degree, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm without a license, as joint venturers, in connection with the victim's death. Prior to trial, both defendants had moved unsuccessfully to suppress text messages obtained from their cellular service provider. The text messages, which were introduced at trial, contained

478 Mass. 510

incriminating statements involving the defendants' plan to steal marijuana from the victim on the morning of the shooting.

In this direct appeal, Holley and Pritchett challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their felony-murder convictions and the introduction of their text messages at trial. They argue also that the judge erred in declining to instruct the jury on felony-murder in the second degree, and in dismissing a deliberating juror who was ill. Pritchett argues separately that the judge erred by denying his motion to sever, admitting evidence of prior bad acts, and declining to instruct the jury on the requirements of the hearsay exemption concerning joint venturer statements. Each defendant also requests relief under G. L. c. 278, § 33E. We affirm the convictions and, after careful review of the record, decline to set aside the verdicts or reduce the degree of guilt pursuant to our authority under G. L. c. 278, § 33E.

1. Facts. We recite the facts the jury could have found, reserving certain details for later discussion.

a. The shooting. The victim lived with his girl friend and their children in one of the two units on the third floor of an apartment building on Lyndhurst Street in the Dorchester section of Boston. The other apartment on that floor was vacant and left unlocked. The victim often used the vacant apartment to do homework and to sell marijuana to friends and close acquaintances. When selling to people he did not know well, such as individuals who had been referred to him, the victim would arrange to meet the buyers somewhere outside the apartment building. Shortly before his death, the victim had obtained a handgun to protect himself when he was selling marijuana, because he had been robbed during a previous sale. The victim stored his marijuana, and the proceeds from his marijuana sales, in empty cans of Enfamil brand baby formula.

Sometime between 9 and 10 A.M. on October 17, 2012, the victim went to the vacant apartment to do homework. His girl friend remained in their apartment to watch television. At some point while the victim was in the vacant apartment, his girl friend placed a video call to the victim and the two spoke briefly. The victim owned a white iPhone cellular telephone that repeatedly flashed a light that resembled a "strobe light" when it rang. After the call, at around 11 A.M. , the girl friend heard a "loud pop" and then a "thud." She tried to video-call the victim, but he did not respond. When she went into the hallway, she saw that the door to the vacant apartment was open and the lid of an Enfamil can

478 Mass. 511

was on the floor in front of the door. She entered the vacant apartment and saw the victim lying on the floor, shaking and bleeding from the head. She ran back to her apartment and telephoned 911.

87 N.E.3d 83

Emergency medical technicians and police responded within minutes. On their way up the stairs, they noticed what they described as a burgundy Red Sox baseball cap on the second-floor landing. They entered the vacant apartment and found the victim lying face down, barely breathing, nonresponsive, and bleeding from the right side of his head. Next to the victim was a cloth bag containing a firearm. Police found the plastic lid of an Enfamil can but did not find the Enfamil container itself, nor did they find any marijuana or money. The victim's iPhone was not in the apartment. The victim was transported to the hospital, where he died a few hours later.

b. The investigation. During the course of the investigation, police examined the victim's call records and learned that the last call the victim answered before the shooting came from Holley's telephone number. Police then obtained information from the defendants' cellular telephone records through a warrant served on their cellular service provider, MetroPCS.2 Two days before the shooting, Holley sent Pritchett a text message stating, "Yo who can we stick ... mainly for sum loud[3 ]... git da V an joint bro." Holley then called Pritchett and spoke to him on his cellular telephone. The next day, Holley sent a text message to the victim asking, "Bro U kno wea I can get a nice deal on a ounces of loud? ?" The victim and Holley thereafter exchanged text messages in which they arranged that the victim would sell Holley two ounces of marijuana for $650; they planned to meet the following day to make the exchange.

On the morning of the shooting, Holley sent the victim a text message at 8:21 A.M. stating, "I'll be off at 9 ... ill hit u up tho." The victim responded, "Oo forreal ... wasn't even hip .. But ya whenever ur ready bruh ... Koo." Approximately forty minutes

478 Mass. 512

later, Holley sent a text message to Pritchett saying, "I got a stick ... not a big one tho ... its for two. Ounces of loud ... wanna get it." The following exchange then took place:

PRITCHETT : "Wen"

HOLLEY : "ASAP. Wanna meet me ... I live on Esmond st ..."

PRITCHETT : "Who u stay there wit"

HOLLEY : "I got a roommate bro"

PRITCHETT : "Oh so wat u want me to do

"So wea u at now"

HOLLEY : "I can get my Hans on a joint but then shits is too big ... nigga got a couple rifles. SawedOff ... no hand joints ... u got a Hand joint

"I just got off ... I'm getting dropped off now ..."

PRITCHETT : "Off of work"

HOLLEY : "Yea work"

PRITCHETT : "I got a couple"

After this exchange, Holley called Pritchett at 9:09 A.M. and spoke to him for a few minutes. Less than ten minutes later, Holley sent Pritchett a text message saying, "Dnt bro a revolver ... cock back ... so he Cam Hea it."

At 9:37 A.M. , Pritchett called Holley. Cell site data4 records show that, during that

87 N.E.3d 84

call, Pritchett's cellular telephone connected to a cellular telephone tower (cell tower) near his home on Blue Hill Avenue, while Holley's cellular telephone connected to a cell tower near his home on Esmond Street. Between 9:44 and 9:49 A.M. , Pritchett's cellular telephone connected with a cell

478 Mass. 513

tower further from his house, on a route leading to Holley's house.

Between 9:54 and 9:58 A.M. , Pritchett and Holley exchanged text messages to coordinate a meeting at Holley's house. At 10:01 A.M. , Pritchett called Holley. Pritchett's cellular telephone connected to a cell tower on Talbot Avenue, closer to Holley's house, while Holley's cellular telephone connected to a cell tower on his street. When Pritchett called Holley again two minutes later, both of their cellular telephones used the same cell tower on Holley's street.

At 10:22 A.M. , Holley sent the victim a text message saying "I'm bout to head down their ..." and the victim responded, "Koo." At 10:29 A.M. , Holley replied, "15 min," and the victim responded, "Ok." Video surveillance footage from the entryway of the victim's building showed the victim walk down the interior stairs, prop open the interior entry door, and then walk back up the stairs at 10:30 A.M. 5

At 10:54 A.M. , Holley's cellular telephone connected to a cell tower at an intersection that was just a few blocks from the victim's apartment. At 10:56 A.M. , Holley's telephone connected with a cell tower approximately several blocks away from closer to the victim's apartment. At the same time, the victim's call records show that he answered a call from Holley; at that point, the victim's telephone connected to a tower a few blocks from his apartment. This was the last time a call was answered from the victim's cellular telephone.

Footage from the video surveillance cameras in the victim's apartment building showed two young, African–American males enter the building at 10:57 A.M. that morning. One was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with a dark coat over it and a maroon baseball cap; he was speaking on a cellular telephone as he climbed the stairs. The other was wearing a black, white, and red plaid jacket with the...

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49 practice notes
  • Commonwealth v. Long, SJC-12694
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 12, 2019
    ...search warrant issues." 128 N.E.3d 599 Commonwealth v. Alexis, 481 Mass. 91, 102, 112 N.E.3d 796 (2018), quoting Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 521, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017). See Commonwealth v. Cinelli, 389 Mass. 197, 213, 449 N.E.2d 1207, cert. denied, 464 U.S. 860, 104 S.Ct. 186, 78 L......
  • Commonwealth v. Wardsworth, SJC-11125
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 19, 2019
    ...56, 57 n.1, 849 N.E.2d 218 (2006).9 Statements admitted under this exemption are entered for their truth. See Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 534, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017) ; Commonwealth v. Veiovis, 477 Mass. 472, 480 n.8, 78 N.E.3d 757 (2017).10 We assume, without deciding, that the Comm......
  • Commonwealth v. Wilkerson, SJC-12124
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • November 4, 2020
    ...the Commonwealth at trial" [footnote omitted]. Id. at 550, 125 N.E.3d 59. In reaching this decision, we relied on Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 524-525, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017), a case in which we sanctioned the admission of certain relevant text messages, notwithstanding an insufficie......
  • Commonwealth v. Chalue, SJC-12457
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 23, 2021
    ...by a preponderance of the evidence, the existence of a joint venture independent of the statement being offered." Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 534, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017). Further, "[b]efore considering the statement as bearing on the defendant's guilt, ... the jury must make their o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
49 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Long, SJC-12694
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 12, 2019
    ...search warrant issues." 128 N.E.3d 599 Commonwealth v. Alexis, 481 Mass. 91, 102, 112 N.E.3d 796 (2018), quoting Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 521, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017). See Commonwealth v. Cinelli, 389 Mass. 197, 213, 449 N.E.2d 1207, cert. denied, 464 U.S. 860, 104 S.Ct. 186, 78 L......
  • Commonwealth v. Wardsworth, SJC-11125
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 19, 2019
    ...56, 57 n.1, 849 N.E.2d 218 (2006).9 Statements admitted under this exemption are entered for their truth. See Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 534, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017) ; Commonwealth v. Veiovis, 477 Mass. 472, 480 n.8, 78 N.E.3d 757 (2017).10 We assume, without deciding, that the Comm......
  • Commonwealth v. Wilkerson, SJC-12124
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • November 4, 2020
    ...the Commonwealth at trial" [footnote omitted]. Id. at 550, 125 N.E.3d 59. In reaching this decision, we relied on Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 524-525, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017), a case in which we sanctioned the admission of certain relevant text messages, notwithstanding an insufficie......
  • Commonwealth v. Chalue, SJC-12457
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 23, 2021
    ...by a preponderance of the evidence, the existence of a joint venture independent of the statement being offered." Commonwealth v. Holley, 478 Mass. 508, 534, 87 N.E.3d 77 (2017). Further, "[b]efore considering the statement as bearing on the defendant's guilt, ... the jury must make their o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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