According to an article in the MetroWest Daily News, three men were arrested earlier this week and charged with robbery in Marlborough. The article states that the three defendants met the alleged victim outside a Burger King for the purpose of buying marijuana from him. When the alleged victim presented the drugs, the three defendants reportedly reached into their pockets and pretended to have weapons. One of the defendants then reportedly grabbed the marijuana from the alleged victim while the other two defendants allegedly pushed him and attempted to steal his cellular telephone. The defendants then reportedly drove off in a silver vehicle. The alleged victim called the police and provided them with a description of the vehicle and the license plate number. Officers stopped the car a short distance away. Inside the vehicle, the officers found a bag of marijuana. Following the stop, the alleged victim identified the three men in the car as the people that robbed him. The driver was charged with unarmed robbery, use of a motor vehicle without authority, and conspiracy to violate the drug laws. The other two defendants were charged with unarmed robbery, assault and battery, and conspiracy to violate the drug laws.
The evidence against the defendants appears to be strong at first glance. However, the case ultimately hinges on the alleged victim’s testimony – he is the only witness who will be able to testify to what happened in the parking lot – and there appear to be two potential problems with calling him as a witness.
First, the alleged victim has a Fifth Amendment privilege. Under the Fifth Amendment and Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, everyone has the right against self-incrimination. This means that a person cannot be compelled to testify against himself if that testimony is potentially incriminating and/or could result in criminal prosecution. Here, if the alleged victim testified, he would have to admit that he was selling marijuana to the three defendants, thereby offering incriminating testimony against himself. Although the Commonwealth may choose to grant immunity to the alleged victim in exchange for his testimony under G. L. c. 233, § 20E, such a grant of immunity is only permissible where certain serious Superior Court offenses are involved. Therefore, the Commonwealth would have to both decide to indict the case, and obtain that grant of immunity to secure the alleged victim’s testimony. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the alleged victim’s credibility may be significantly undermined by the fact that he is admitting to selling marijuana. Specifically, the defendants may be in a strong position to argue that the testimony of an admitted drug dealer should not be credited, and that the alleged victim’s version of events should not be trusted or believed.
Regardless of the challenges that the Commonwealth faces in pursuing the case, charges such as these are serious – they carry harsh penalties, including state prison time. As such, they should be dealt with by an experienced attorney. Attorney Daniel Cappetta is a skilled attorney who is well versed in the law. He makes sure that all avenues of defense are explored. Call him for a free consultation and let him help you, or a loved one today.