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Commonwealth v. Acevedo

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
845 N.E.2d 274 (2006)


Facts

A high-school student threw a party at her house following a school dance. Charles McCullough attended the party. When German Acevedo (defendant) and Acevedo’s friends arrived at the party, McCullough accused the group of stealing his headlights, and an argument ensued. Acevedo and his friends left the party, but later returned, and a second argument ensued. Witnesses for the prosecution and the defense presented different versions of the subsequent events. According to prosecution witnesses, one of Acevedo’s friends punched McCullough, McCullough challenged Acevedo to a one-on-one fight outside, and only McCullough and Acevedo were involved in the physical fight. After McCullough hit Acevedo in the head, Acevedo stabbed McCullough five times in a manner that resulted in McCullough’s death. According to defense witnesses, Acevedo attempted to flee the party when the physical altercation began. Acevedo attempted to get into a friend’s car, but found it locked. After returning to the crowd gathered outside, Acevedo saw McCullough make a fist and run toward him. Acevedo was knocked to the ground and attempted to push multiple attackers away, but was unable to do so. Acevedo then pulled a knife and swung it at his attackers. The judge provided jury instructions on self-defense, involuntary manslaughter, and manslaughter based on the use of excessive force in self-defense. The jury was not instructed on manslaughter based on reasonable provocation. The jury requested further information regarding malice and any mitigating factors that could be considered. The judge responded that no mitigating circumstances should be considered, other than excessive use of force in self-defense. The jury convicted Acevedo of second-degree murder. Acevedo appealed his conviction and filed a motion for a new trial. The appellate court denied the motion and affirmed the conviction. Acevedo appealed on the ground that failure to instruct the jury on manslaughter based on reasonable provocation constituted reversible error.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Spina, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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