According to a report in the Metrowest Daily News, Donald Williams, a fifty six year old Massachusetts man is being charged with Attempted Murder. It is alleged that late last week police were called to a Worcester County address where they encountered Williams in the garage. Williams told the officers that the “victim” had attacked him with a baseball bat. In response, Williams stabbed the man. The home to which the police responded belonged to neither of the combatants. Williams was initially charged with Assault and Battery, Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon, the same charged alleging the additional element of serious bodily injury and Assault. The charges were amended to add Attempted Murder. The case will likely be prosecuted in the Worcester Superior Court. Bail was set in the amount of five thousand dollars. The “victim”, a man named John Cortez is also being charged with a Violent Crime, specifically Assault and Assault and Battery With a Dangerous Weapon.
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As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer two things dart out at me when reading this article. One is the defense of self-defense. The other is the issue of the mutual invocation of Fifth Amendment privileges.
Here are some things to consider when evaluating self-defense as a means of defending charges like these. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams did not act in self-defense. To do this the district attorney must show that the defendant did not reasonably believe that he was being attacked or was about to be attacked and that and that he was in danger of great bodily harm or death. The prosecutor must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams did everything reasonable to avoid the fight. Finally the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force Williams used was not reasonably necessary. This might be a difficult obstacle for the prosecutor to overcome. Williams was attacked by Cortez. The article suggests that he was permissibly at the location where the fight occurred. It is unclear whether Cortez was there with the homeowner’s consent. Cortez also used a baseball bat to strike Williams. Williams may not have been able to avoid defending himself and perhaps the only way he could do so was with a weapon. Also keep in mind that Williams never fled the crimes scene. This is evidence that works in his favor. Similarly, if Williams called the police the suggestion that he was the victim rather than the aggressor might prevail. The question is what would a reasonable person sitting in Williams’ shoes do? Massachusetts law states that retaliation is not a defense so the timing of the stabbing vis a vis the attack with the baseball bat becomes important here.
Fifth Amendment Privileges
Anytime someone does something that can be construed as being criminal he has the right to invoke his Fifth Amendment Privilege and refuse to testify. Oftentimes fights never get prosecuted as a result of this right. People who get charged with committing a crime either hire a lawyer or get a lawyer appointed for them. In situations like this one, where both combatants are charged with crimes of violence both will have a lawyer. An Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer will probably tell his client to invoke the privilege and remain silent. In other words, the person will not testify against the person against whom he fought. Absent an independent witnsess’ the case will likely get dismissed.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman defends people accused of all crimes. Call us at 617-263-6800 or send us an email if you are facing criminal charges in Massachusetts. We can help you.