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Commonwealth v. Daley, 463 Mass. 620 (2012)

Commonwealth v. Daley, 463 Mass. 620 (2012)

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A grand jury indicted the defendant on three counts including: (1) motor vehicle homicide; (2) negligent operation of a motor vehicle; and (3) leaving the scene of an accident where death resulted and was tried in a bench trial in Superior Court. The judge denied both the defendant’s motion for required findings of not guilty at the close of the prosecution’s case and his renewed motion at the conclusion of the trial. The trial court judge found the defendant not guilty of the indictments for motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
A grand jury indicted the defendant on three counts including: (1) motor vehicle homicide; (2) negligent operation of a motor vehicle; and (3) leaving the scene of an accident where death resulted and was tried in a bench trial in Superior Court. The judge denied both the defendant’s motion for required findings of not guilty at the close of the prosecution’s case and his renewed motion at the conclusion of the trial. The trial court judge found the defendant not guilty of the indictments for motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: New England Law Review on Apr 22, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/21/2013

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N
EW
E
NGLAND
L
AW
R
EVIEW
M
ASSACHUSETTS
C
RIMINAL
D
IGEST
 
89
Commonwealth v. Daley,463 Mass. 620 (2012)
C
ONTRIBUTING
E
DITOR
:
 
S
ARAH
 J.
 
K
MIECIAK
 
I. Procedural History
A grand jury indicted the defendant on three counts including: (1)motor vehicle homicide; (2) negligent operation of a motor vehicle; and (3)leaving the scene of an accident where death resulted and was tried in a bench trial in Superior Court.
1
The judge denied both the defendant’smotion for required findings of not guilty at the close of the prosecution’scase and his renewed motion at the conclusion of the trial.
2
The trial court judge found the defendant not guilty of the indictments for motor vehiclehomicide and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
3
 At issue with the final indictment for leaving the scene of an accidentwhere death resulted was whether the Commonwealth was required toprove that the defendant
knew
he collided with a person.
4
The judgeinitially held the defendant guilty stating that the statute only required theCommonwealth to prove that the defendant knowingly collided with anobject, there was no requirement to show that the defendant knowinglycollided with a person.
5
Prior to sentencing the defendant filed a motionpursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 25(a) to set aside the conviction.
6
Atsentencing, the judge stated that after reconsideration he hadmisinterpreted the statute.
7
He found that the statute did require that adefendant have knowledge that he had collided with a person.
8
As such,the judge stated that he should have held that the Commonwealth did not
1
Commonwealth v. Daley, 463 Mass. 620, 622 (2012).
2
Id.
3
Id.
4
Id.
5
Id.
6
Id. at 622-623.
7
Commonwealth v. Daley, supra at 623.
8
Id.
 
90
New Eng. L. Rev. Mass. Crim. Dig.
v. 47 | 89
meet its burden.
9
The judge advised the defendant to file a motionpursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 30(b).
10
The judge stated in his memorandumof decision and order on the motion that the defendant was not guilty ofleaving the scene of an accident where death resulted as theCommonwealth did not meet is burden by proving that the defendantknowingly collided with a person.
11
The judge found that he had erred byentering a judgment of guilty and resolved this error of law by entering a judgment of acquittal.
12
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusettsgranted the Commonwealth’s application for direct appellate review.
13
 
II. Facts
On December 23, 2009, the defendant was driving on Robertson Streetin Quincy.
14
On that night the street was lined with snow banks from oneto two feet high.
15
As the defendant was driving he struck a pedestrianwith the passenger side of his Toyota truck.
16
The victim was discoveredthe next morning on the sidewalk between the snow banks.
17
The victimhad died of blunt force trauma to his chest, and at the time of death had a blood alcohol level of .25 percent.
18
The police held a press conferenceidentifying the car that struck the victim as a Toyota and asking for thepublic’s assistance in finding the driver.
19
The defendant, hearing theannouncement, turned himself in via his attorney.
20
 The defendant stated that on that night he had attended a party inQuincy and over the course of the evening he drank two glasses of wine.
21
 At approximately 11 P.M., the defendant was driving home and glancedaway from the road to reach for a cup of coffee in his cup holder, and hefelt his car strike something.
22
He stopped a short distance down the road—approximately 100 feet—got out of the truck, and walked a distance of
9
Id.
10
Id.
11
Id.
12
Id.
13
Commonwealth v. Daley, supra at 620.
14
Id. at 621.
15
Id.
16
Id.
17
Id.
18
Id.
19
Commonwealth v. Daley, supra at 621.
20
Id.
21
Id.
22
Id. at 621-622.
 
2013
Commonwealth v. Daley
91
about ten to twenty feet down the street to determine what he hit.
23
Thedefendant did not see anything in the street and got in the car and droveaway.
24
The defendant noticed damage to his side view mirror butassumed he had hit a signpost, fire hydrant, or something else solid.
25
Thedefendant maintains that he is unaware that he hit a person until he heardthe announcement of the police press conference at which point he turnedhimself in.
26
 
III. Issues Presented
Whether under G. L. c. 90, § 24(2)(a1/2)(2) the Commonwealth has the burden to prove that a defendant knowingly collided with a person ratherthan an object to receive a conviction for leaving the scene of an accidentwhere death resulted.
27
 
IV. Holdings and Reasoning
The Court relied on the ordinary language of the sentence to interpretthe statute.
28
The court found that the adverb “knowingly” modifies bothverbs within the clause.
29
Here, the statute states “Whoever operates amotor vehicle . . . [who] goes away to avoid prosecution or evadeapprehension after
knowingly
colliding with or otherwise causing injury toany person shall, if the injuries result in the death of a person, bepunished . . . .”
30
The Commonwealth argued: (1) that Commonwealth v.McMenimon
31
and Commonwealth v. Horsfall
32
apply; and (2) that thelegislative history of the statute supports their argument that the defendantdoes not have to have knowledge that the object he struck was, in fact, aperson.
33
For the first argument, the Court found that these cases could bedistinguished from the case at issue on the facts—neither of those casesdealt with the issue of whether a defendant had knowledge that he collided
23
Id. at 622.
24
Id.
25
Commonwealth v. Daley, supra at 622.
26
Id. at 621-622.
27
Id. at 620.
28
Id. at 623, citing Foss v. Commonwealth, 437 Mass. 584, 586 (2002).
29
Id., citing Flores Figueroa v. United States, 556 U.S. 646, 647 (2000); Ten Local CitizenGroup v. New England Wind, LLC, 457 Mass. 222, 229 (2010); Rowley v. Massachusetts Elec.Co., 438 Mass. 798, 802 (2003).
30
G. L. c. 90, § 24(2) (a ½) (2).
31
Commonwealth v. McMenimon, 295 Mass. 467 (1936).
32
Commonwealth v. Horsfall, 213 Mass. 232 (1913).
33
Commonwealth v. Daley, supra at 624-625.

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