Monday, April 29, 2013

Commonwealth v. Weichell case brief

Commonwealth v. Weichell case brief
446 Mass. 785, 847 N.E.2d 1080, 2006 Mass.

CASE SYNOPSIS: Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree, and the court affirmed the conviction. The Superior Court Department (Massachusetts) denied defendant's new trial motion. Over a decade later, defendant filed a second motion for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, and the motion judge granted the motion. The Commonwealth sought review of the motion judge's order.

FACTS: In defendant's murder trial, the Commonwealth had presented evidence that in the weeks prior to the victim's death, defendant and his friend had confrontations with the victim. In his second new trial motion, defendant asserted that his friend's confession letter and incriminating statements made to a second friend were newly discovered evidence. The motion judge granted the motion.

On appeal, the court held that the evidence was not newly discovered because defendant did not suffer from any mental impairment preventing him from pursuing exculpatory evidence; because he deliberately failed to ascertain the letter's contents long before he filed his second new trial motion, although he had it within his means to do so; and because he had to make no more effort than to ask the second friend, before filing his first new trial motion, if the first friend, whom he knew to be a suspect, had said anything about the murder. The court also held that the letter and the incriminating statements were inadmissible hearsay because they were neither adequately corroborated nor contemporaneous with defendant's arrest or conviction and because they otherwise lacked trustworthiness.

CONCLUSION: The court vacated the order granting defendant a new trial and directed that a new order denying the motion be entered.

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