Twenty-two year old Anthony Merrill of Lynn Massachusetts is charged with assault with intent to murder and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon relating to a stabbing that occurred in Hammond Park in Marblehead. According to The Salem News, Merrill approached a Salem Massachusetts man from behind and stabbed him. A witness reported observing an individual in the park prior to the assault with two shiny objects. It has been reported that Merrill had two steak knives in his hand when he approached the victim. Initially the victim believed that he had been struck by a rock and chased after his assailant. The victim’s friend alerted him to the fact that he had a knife sticking out of his back. Two bloody steak knives were confiscated from the scene. It is believed that the attack was unprovoked. Following his arraignment in the judge ordered that the defendant be held on $25,000.00 cash bail. The defendant was identified based on witness descriptions and photographic identifications made by witnesses.
Based on the facts of this case, it seems that a viable defense is that the defendant has been mistakenly identified as the culprit. In Massachusetts, presenting a defense of mistaken identification can be successful in situations, such as this one, where the defendant was not identified until a period of time passed and it does not appear that the parties knew one another. Furthermore, the fact that this incident took place at night could strengthen the defendant’s position that he has been misidentified.
A successful Boston area defense attorney would likely file a pre-trial motion requesting that the Commonwealth disclose the details of any and all identification procedures. After gathering this information a decision must be made relative to whether a motion to suppress the identification of the defendant as the perpetrator should be filed. The grounds for this type of motion often include that the identification of the defendant was unduly suggestive either by the conduct of the police or the circumstances under which the identification was made. If the Court allows the defendant’s motion then the out of court identification is suppressed. At this point, the Commonwealth must demonstrate that any in court identification is based on a source independent from the tainted prior identification. In most cases, when the identification of a defendant is suppressed the case would be dismissed.
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