Conviction For Columbine-Style Murder Plot Affirmed By Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

This week the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its opinion in the case of Commonwealth v. Nee. Nee was convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Murder in 2008 the Plymouth County Superior Court in Brockton, Massachusetts after a jury waived trial. He received a sentence of two and one half years in the house of correction with nine months to serve. A sentence as such typically results in a defendant serving four and one half months. The Court in its decision recited the following facts:

In September of 2004 Nee and two other Marshfield High School students (Farley and Sullivan) met with a police officer to inform her that another student had come up with a plan to blow up Marshfield High School. The meeting was arranged at Nee’s suggestion. Nee and the others described the plot to the officer. As planned, they never acknowledged any involvement in the plan. Acting on this information police officers executed a Search Warrant at the home of Tobin Kerns where they found evidence of the plan. Kerns was tried and convicted. Farley and Sullivan testified at his trial under a grant of immunity. Their testimony implicated Nee. Both stated that the intent was to execute a Columbine-style assault on the school and specified targets. The plan was elaborate.

Nee’s appeal argued insufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction for conspiracy to commit murder. In particular, the defendant suggested that he never intended to carry out the plan. Ruling against the defendant the Court held that to prove a conspiracy the prosecution need prove no more than an agreement with another with the intention to commit the act. There is no overt act requirement in Massachusetts. In addition, several witnesses testified about Nee’s involvement in the plan itself, that he experimented with explosive devices and recruited others to join in the plot. Nee also argued that he renounced his intention to carry out the plan and that act constitutes a complete defense to the charges. The Court held that in order to avail oneself of that defense he must first acknowledge that he conspired to commit the crime. In this case Nee denied involvement in the crime. The Court left open this issue as to whether or not the defense of renunciation is a viable defense to conspiracy in Massachusetts.

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