Commonwealth v. Adjutant
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
824 N.E.2d 1 (2005)
Stephen Whiting hired an escort from Newbury Cosmopolitan International Escort Service (Newbury) for a full-body massage and one hour of company. Newbury sent Rhonda Adjutant (defendant) to Whiting’s apartment. Whiting paid Adjutant and then snorted cocaine. When Adjutant offered to start Whiting’s massage, Whiting insisted on sexual intercourse. Adjutant resisted and called Newbury. The Newbury dispatcher talked to Whiting, confirming that Whiting had not paid for intercourse. Whiting demanded a refund but was denied. At some point, Whiting had grabbed a crowbar, and Adjutant had grabbed a knife. Whiting used the crowbar to hit a counter and then Adjutant’s leg. Adjutant then nicked Whiting in the face with the knife. Two Newbury employees showed up, heard Adjutant screaming, and kicked down the door just as Whiting came after Adjutant with the crowbar again. Adjutant stabbed Whiting in the neck, killing him. Adjutant was charged with Whiting’s death. Adjutant claimed that she had acted in self-defense. While preparing for trial, Adjutant learned that Whiting had been violent on previous occasions, especially while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and that he had a reputation for being violent. Adjutant sought to introduce this evidence at trial to show that Whiting was the first aggressor. However, the trial court determined that evidence of a victim’s violent character was admissible only if the defendant knew about it at the time of the attack and if this knowledge helped explain the defendant’s fearfulness or force level. Because Adjutant did not know about Whiting’s violent tendencies until after the attack, the trial court excluded the evidence. Adjutant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and she appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Cordy, J.)
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