Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Commonwealth v Matsos case brief (421 Mass. 391)

Commonwealth v Matsos
421 Mass. 391, 657 N.E.2d 467 (1995).
S. Ct. Mass. 1995

FACTS

-D became interested in a female police officer.
-Over the next 10 months he sent 40 lengthy letters referencing sexual fantasies, anger with the officer/victim, some racial overtones, affiliation with criminal friends, spying activities upon the victim.
-D filed a complaint against the victim with the police department for alleged drug usage.
-D identified himself as “The Stalker".   He warned the victim: “There is [going to come] a day when you are [going to] want to come and see me ... but you will never see me, your eyes will alway[s] be closed.”

ISSUES

1.  Was evidence insufficient to prove a threat with intent to place victim in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury?
2.  Whether statutory language, as applied to this case, unconstitutionally vague?

HOLDINGS
1.  Yes.  Evidence insufficient to prove threat with intent to place victim in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury.
2.  No.  Language was not unconstitutionally vague as applied to this case.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY
-Jury conviction for Stalking. Affirmed.

RULES
-Whoever willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and who makes a threat with intent to place the victim in imminent fear of death or bodily injury is guilty of stalking.
-Stalking is similar to assault. Apprehension that force may be used is sufficient for the offense of assault.
-Apprehension is determined by actions or words of def. of anticipated force.

ANALYSIS
-The D’s actions clearly fall within the scope of conduct prohibited by the harassment portion of the statute, even if the statute is interpreted as requiring that the defendant engage repeatedly in patterns of conduct or series of acts that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. -Jury heard more than 40 letters,  23 (over half) were replete with vulgar language, sexual fantasies about the victim, and threats of various kinds.
-Measured by any standard these facts establish that the D’s campaign of harassment involved distinctive, but equally disturbing, patterns of conduct.

Further Notes
:  Statute was determined to be void for vagueness one year after def conviction.

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