Commonwealth v. Mastro, 20-P-992

CourtAppeals Court of Massachusetts
Citation100 Mass.App.Ct. 1123,182 N.E.3d 335 (Table)
Docket Number20-P-992
Parties COMMONWEALTH v. Danielle S. MASTRO.
Decision Date03 February 2022

100 Mass.App.Ct. 1123
182 N.E.3d 335 (Table)

Danielle S. MASTRO.


Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

Entered: February 3, 2022.


After a jury-waived trial, the defendant was convicted of manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor (OUI manslaughter), G. L. c. 265, § 13 1/2, for the killing of the victim, Deborah Combra.2 The defendant appeals, arguing that the evidence did not prove that her conduct was wanton or reckless, and she should instead have been convicted of negligent motor vehicle homicide.3 We affirm.

Background. In the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the trier of fact could have found as follows. Between 11:04 A.M. and 1:44 P.M. on October 3, 2017, the defendant repeatedly text-messaged her drug dealer seeking to buy drugs. Early that afternoon, she took her mother's gray Audi without permission and drove it, even though her license was suspended.

In Hanson at about 2 P.M. , Sergeant Elisha Sullivan Durgin saw the Audi tailgating another car. Durgin drove behind the Audi with her cruiser's blue lights and siren activated. The Audi did not stop. Instead, the Audi passed the car in front of it, twice swerving toward that car as it did so. As she drove past, the Audi's driver raised her middle finger toward the other car.

After traveling about another two-tenths of a mile, the Audi pulled over. When Durgin got out of her cruiser, the Audi quickly drove off, reaching a speed of about seventy miles per hour. As it approached an intersection where traffic was stopped at a stop sign, the Audi fish-tailed and then drove around the waiting traffic, veering across the yellow line into the opposite lane and narrowly missing an oncoming school bus.

In East Bridgewater, the Audi approached a construction zone, where police in reflective clothing were directing traffic. The Audi weaved back and forth trying to pass the cars in front of it. An officer raised his hands signaling for the Audi to stop. The Audi did not stop, and the officer had to jump out of its way to avoid being hit.

At 2:11 P.M. , the defendant texted her drug dealer, "I'm in Brockton," and that she was on North Quincy Street.

In Brockton shortly before 2:15 P.M. , the victim was driving a Chevrolet SUV northbound on North Quincy Street, chatting with a coworker who was the front-seat passenger. The victim activated her left turn signal and slowed down. The defendant drove up behind her in the Audi, going about forty-two miles per hour in a thirty mile per hour zone. The defendant's Audi rear-ended the victim's SUV, pushing it across the center line into oncoming traffic.

Coming toward the victim's SUV was a dump truck. Its driver slammed on the brakes, but could not avoid the collision. The victim's SUV and the dump truck collided head-on. The impact caused the victim's SUV to spin rapidly, hitting a telephone pole. The victim was thrown out of the SUV and died on impact. As for the SUV passenger, her leg was broken. The dump truck had rolled over, causing injuries to the driver's back.

The defendant got out of the Audi and walked briskly away from the crash, then turned on to the first side street. At 2:16 P.M. , investigating the Audi's driving in Hanson, Durgin telephoned a number associated with its registration; the defendant answered and identified herself as "Danielle," then hung up on Durgin. Brockton officers found the defendant walking on the side street. She told them she was "dope sick," and had last used drugs two days before. Asked about her involvement in the crash, she said, "I don't think I was paying attention," and, "I think I rear-ended somebody." She said that she was looking at her phone and was on her way to meet her dealer to "hook up."

To ambulance personnel, the defendant said that she was "shit-faced," she drank alcohol to deal with her drug addiction, she knew she should not have been driving, and she had come to Brockton to buy drugs. She asked, "[H]ow does a rear end accident kill a chick?" During hospital treatment, her blood was drawn; her blood alcohol level was between 0.136 and 0.137.

The defendant subsequently told police that she had been "dope sick" for a couple of days, had "stolen" her mother's Audi and borrowed $50 to buy drugs, and at the time of the crash she was texting her drug dealer. She said, "The cops tried to stop me and I was like fuck that, I took off,...

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