Law School Case Brief
Commonwealth v. Weichell - 390 Mass. 62, 453 N.E.2d 1038 (1983)
The commonwealth is entitled to introduce all relevant evidence of motive. Evidence is relevant if it renders the desired inference more probable than it would be without the evidence. Evidence is to be admitted if it tends to establish the issue or constitutes a link in the chain of proof. Proof of motive need not be by direct evidence but may be based on inferences which could reasonably be drawn from the circumstances. The probative value to be attached to such evidence is a matter for the jury, and evidence that merely suggests rather than clearly shows a motive for the crime may still be ruled admissible.
During the trial for defendant’s murder charge, the Commonwealth introduced as evidence a composite sketch prepared by a witness to the crime working with a kit consisting of a variety of transparent overlays. The sketch was prepared with the assistance of a police officer. Additionally, out of court statements to prove the defendant’s statements to friends about ten days before the murder that he intended to act against the victim were introduced as evidence at trial. The trial court admitted the sketch and the out of court statements as evidence, and the defendant was accordingly convicted. Defendant challenged his conviction, arguing the admissibility of the evidence.
Were the composite sketch and the out of court statements inadmissible as evidence?
The court held that the sketch, which was not shown to be prepared under suggestive circumstances, was admissible as substantive evidence of identification. The court could not see any reason for excluding the out of court statements made concerning the sketch. The court found that the evidence admitted to prove motive, including evidence of considerable animosity between the victim and defendant, was relevant, and it was up to the jury to weigh the probative value. The court held that the verdict was supported by the weight of the evidence and the court saw no reason to grant a new trial or direct the entry of a verdict to the contrary. The judgment was affirmed.
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