Commonwealth v. Escalera
IV. Holdings and Reasoning
1. Pursuant to Commonwealth v. Pina, a search warrant of a suspecteddrug dealer’s home requires the police to provide “particularizedinformation,” based on surveillance and other sources, which would allowfor a reasonable inference that a supply of drugs was likely kept in thehome.
That burden was met in this case, as the police affidavit describedat least three occasions where police observed the defendant leave hisapartment to drive to a location for an apparent drug deal and thenimmediately return to his apartment at the deal’s conclusion.
2. The locked basement was within the curtilage of the apartment, andthus the search of the basement was within the scope of the warrant.
Although curtilage in an apartment building is typically “very limited,”
itmay extend beyond the tenant’s unit to “separate areas subject to [thetenant’s] exclusive control.”
As the evidence provided to the motion judge established that the tenants of the defendant’s apartment likely had“exclusive use of and access to the locked basement during their tenancy,”the judge was not in error when he concluded that the locked basementwas curtilage to the apartment itself.
3. The Commonwealth met its burden of proof in showing thedefendant’s constructive possession of the items found in the locked basement.
The Commonwealth was able to show constructivepossession—or “knowledge coupled with the ability and intention toexercise dominion and control”
—in several ways, including evidence thatthe defendant’s brother and co-tenant had a key to the basement, that aholster that fit one of the guns recovered from the basement was found inthe defendant’s bedroom closet, and that the defendant made aspontaneous statement at the time of the search implying knowledge of thecontents in the basement before he was informed of what was recovered bypolice.
4. The defendant is entitled to a new trial on all charges, with theexception of the ammunitions charge, due to the violation of his SixthAmendment right to confrontation under Melendez-Diaz v.
Id. at 643, quoting Commonwealth v. Pina, 453 Mass. 438, 442 (2009).
Commonwealth v. Escalera, supra at 645-646.
Id. at 648.
Id., quoting Commonwealth v. McCarthy, 428 Mass. 871, 875 (1999).
Id., quoting Commonwealth v. Thomas, 358 Mass. 771, 775 (1971).
Id. at 649.
Commonwealth v. Escalera, supra 649, quoting Commonwealth v. Boria, 440 Mass. 416,418 (2003).