Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

How Did This Defendant Get an Acquittal After Stabbing Accusations?

In 2019, a 20-year-old was fatally stabbed multiple times in Brookline, Massachusetts – but the person arrested for this offense was eventually acquitted. The fatal incident took place at approximately 1:30 AM, and it apparently involved a dispute over prescription drugs. Very quickly, the defendant claimed that he was acting in self-defense. Over the next few years, a detailed account of this incident began to emerge.  

How the Story Changed Over the Years

Initially, media reports painted the deceased individual as a clear victim. They highlighted the fact that he was a student at a local educational institution and that he was missed by many students and teachers. What these reports failed to mention, however, was that the deceased individual was almost certainly caught up in some kind of altercation over prescription drugs. 

Eventually, the story began to change. Police found Snapchat messages that implicated the defendant and led to his arrest. However, the defendant’s counsel quickly began to paint a very different picture – one that suggested that the deceased individual might not have been the “innocent student” initially described by media reports. On the contrary, the defense maintained that this individual attacked the defendant with a broken vodka bottle in an attempt to steal two Xanax pills. The defense also suggested that the deceased individual was heavily intoxicated at the time of the altercation. 

In response, the prosecution argued that the deceased individual had suffered almost 20 stab wounds – and that this could not possibly be the result of someone acting in self-defense. Someone acting in self-defense would have stopped after incapacitating the attacker with just a few stabs, they argued. They also pointed to surveillance footage that showed the deceased victim stumbling in a drunken manner prior to the attack – suggesting that this individual couldn’t have posed a real threat. 

In the end, the jury determined that the defendant was probably acting in self-defense – and they acquitted him of all charges. The defense’s argument of “sudden, close-quarters combat” seemed to resonate with the jury, who understood that there was no time to react or consider any course of action besides self-preservation. At the end of the day, the defendant was clearly robbed by not one but two attackers. 

How Did He Escape Felony Murder Charges?

Some observers have asked why the defendant did not face felony murder charges. After all, he was allegedly committing a crime (selling drugs) when the fatal altercation occurred. In some cases, it is possible to face felony murder charges even if you cause someone to unintentionally or accidentally die while you are committing a crime. In this case, it seems that the right to self-defense trumped any implications of illegal drug dealing. In other words, the defendant’s right to self-defense did not disappear simply because he was selling Xanax under questionable circumstances. One has to wonder what would have happened if the defendant did not defend himself. Would a reasonable person allow themselves to be seriously injured or murdered with a broken vodka bottle?

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