Massachusetts Appeals Court Reverses Conviction for Larceny, Malicious Destruction of Property, Breaking and Entering for Insufficient Evidence

Two days ago the Massachusetts Appeals Court handed down its decision in
Commonwealth v Renaud, 11-P-382. The facts in Renaud are as follows:

There was a breaking and entering in Falmouth, Massachusetts. No one was home. Television sets and a DVD player were stolen. The police arrived to investigate and found an electronic bank card bearing Renaud’s name on it. Renaud was not known by the victims. Renaud lived in Falmouth, a fact known to the police. The police called him the next day and told him that someone found his bankcard on the side of the road. He was further told that he could pick it up at the police station. Renaud responded that he did know that it was missing. He elected not to go to the police station. The case went to trial. Renaud was convicted based almost exclusively on the fact that his bankcard was found in the victim’s home. Reversing the conviction the Massachusetts Appeals Court stated that “ownership of [the bankcard] cannot allow a factfinder to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the owner of the card was in possession of it during the commission of a crime”. As to the bankcard itself, the court made the observation that “[i]dentification cards are common currency of everyday life. They are also portable objects that can be lost, stolen, or transplanted by others.” In the circumstances of this case the trial judge should have allowed the defendant’s Motion for a Required Finding of Not Guilty and entered a verdict of Not Guilty.

The standard in Massachusetts for sustaining a prosecution is whether the evidence introduced up to the time the Commonwealth rests its case, “viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, was sufficient for a reasonable jury to infer the existence of each essential element of the crime charged, beyond a reasonable doubt”. Thus, when reviewing claims for sufficiency of the evidence Massachusetts Appellate Courts pay no attention to any evidence that follows the Commonwealth’s case. For instance, if the defendant puts on evidence that evidence has no bearing on the challenge for insufficient evidence provided that the defendant has moved the Court for a Required Finding of Not Guilty after the district attorney rests his case.

In this case Renaud’s trial lawyer did a great job preserving this issue for appeal. The trial judge should have entered the required finding of not guilty after hearing the motion. The appellate attorney then did a fantastic job articulating the basis for the appeal to the Appeals Court. This case demonstrates the importance of hiring an Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer to represent you at both the trial and appellate levels. The defendant here should be pleased with his decision to hire two excellent lawyers.

The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman handles all aspects of Criminal Law in Massachusetts. We have been defending the accused for over twenty four years. Our results are impressive. Many of these results are published on our “Case Results” pages on our website. If you have been charged with a crime or convicted of a crime you need a lawyer. Call us at 617-263-6800 or email us with any questions or concerns. We want to defend you now.