Commonwealth v. Vellucci

Decision Date27 November 1933
Citation284 Mass. 443
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

October 23, 1933.

Present: RUGG, C.


Burning Insured Property. Evidence, Presumptions and burden of proof Inferences, Consciousness of guilt.

At the trial of an indictment for burning an insured house with intent to defraud the insurer, there was evidence tat, while the house which was owned by the defendant's wife, was vacant, it was burned by a fire of incendiary origin in the early afternoon; that after the fire the defendant at first stated that he had not been to the house for a month and that he had learned of the fire from his wife when he went home on the evening of the day of the fire, and then, upon being confronted by one who said that he had seen the defendant in the yard adjoining the house a few hours after the fire stated that he had been at the house at that time, had seen that there had been a fire and had observed the indications of its incendiary origin, and, being afraid to notify the police at that time, had gone home to tell his wife of the fire; that the defendant was seen at the house a few hours after the fire; and that he had stated that he had keys to the house and that nobody else had, so far as he knew. There was no direct evidence that the defendant set the fire. Held, that the evidence and inferences which properly might have been drawn therefrom warranted a verdict of guilty.

The mere circumstance, at the trial above described, that the defendant's wife and not the defendant was the insured and the lack of evidence that the house was overinsured, did not render unwarranted a verdict of guilty.

INDICTMENT, found and returned on June 10, 1932, described in the opinion.

The indictment was tried in the Superior Court before Hanify, J. Material evidence is stated in the opinion. The judge denied a motion by the defendant that a verdict of not guilty be ordered. The defendant was found guilty and alleged an exception.

H. W. Radovsky, (I.

H. Simon with him,) for the defendant.

F. E. Smith, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

DONAHUE, J. The defendant was tried and was convicted by a jury on an indictment which charged that he burned a dwelling house which was insured, with the intent to defraud an insurance company. G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 266, Section 10. The only exception of the defendant is to the failure of the trial judge to allow his motion for a directed verdict of not guilty.

The defendant and his wife lived in Providence, Rhode Island. She owned a house on Emmett Street in Fall River which in April, 1932, was vacant. It was insured for $1,500 under a five year policy issued in October, 1927. In September, 1931, when the defendant transferred to his wife his interest in the property and assigned to her his interest in the policy, the amount of insurance was increased to $3,000. On Friday, April 29, 1932, at about one o'clock in the afternoon a passerby saw indications that there had been a fire in this house, found the door open and entered. There was no fire burning in the house at that time but woodwork in different parts of the house had been burned, and there were three bushel baskets in different places containing what appeared to be paper that had been consumed by fire, gallon cans which contained gasoline and kerosene, marks on the floor leading to the baskets which might have been found to have been made by fuses and other evidence...

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