Commonwealth v. SouzaAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of murder in the second degree and assault and battery by discharge of a firearm but vacated his convictions for carrying a firearm without a license and carrying a loaded firearm without a license, holding that the trial judge's failure to instruct the jury that the Commonwealth was required to prove an absence of a valid license created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice.
At trial, Defendant sought to introduce Adjutant evidence or evidence of specific incidents of violence allegedly initiated by the victim. The trial judge allowed Defendant to introduce limited evidence of violent incidents initiated by the victim. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant's convictions in part, holding (1) the judge's ruling excluding additional testimony about the violent instances initiated by the victim exceeded the cope and purpose of Adjutant evidence, but there was no prejudice from its exclusion; (2) the trial judge did not err in the instruction regarding the jury's consideration of Adjutant evidence; and (3) pursuant to this Court's decision in Commonwealth v. Guardado, 491 Mass. 666 (2023), Defendant's firearm convictions must be vacated because the judge's failure to properly instruct the jury that Defendant did not have a license to carry a firearm was not harmless.