A Framingham woman and her boyfriend were arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court on October 16, 2013 for their respective roles in a murder. The boyfriend reportedly shot the alleged victim to death in July. The girlfriend allegedly took the gun and hid it near the train tracks after the shooting.
According to an article in the MetroWest Daily News, on the night of the murder, the alleged victim and his friend went to the girlfriend’s house to speak to her. While they were there, the alleged victim and the boyfriend reportedly got into a fight, and the alleged victim’s friend became involved as well. The alleged victim and his friend then got into their vehicle and began driving away. According to the article, the boyfriend shot the alleged victim in the head and the alleged victim’s friend in the chest as they departed. The friend then drove both himself and the alleged victim to hospital, where the alleged victim died as a result of his injuries. After the shooting took place, the girlfriend reportedly took the gun used by her boyfriend and hid it. Both the boyfriend and the girlfriend then identified a third individual as the shooter. The police arrested this individual, but the person was ultimately released once further investigation was completed. The boyfriend is charged with murder, while the girlfriend is charged with two counts of accessory after the fact, intimidation of a witness, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of a loaded firearm without a license, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Although the charges against the girlfriend are extremely serious, it is possible that the Commonwealth may be willing to strike a deal with her if she is willing to testify against her boyfriend. Such a deal could result in the reduction of her charges, a more lenient sentence, or the charges being dropped entirely. 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 him or herself if that testimony is potentially incriminating and/or could result in criminal prosecution. This privilege, however, is not absolute. Under G. L. c. 233, § 20E, the Commonwealth may grant immunity to a witness – in other words, promise not to prosecute the witness – in exchange for the witness’ testimony. The statute specifically allows for a grant of immunity where certain serious Superior Court offenses (including murder) are involved, and the witness in question refuses to testify on the ground that the testimony would incriminate him or herself.
If the Commonwealth’s case against the boyfriend is strong, then it may not explore the possibility of immunity with the girlfriend – after all, if the allegations are true, she actively helped cover up a murder. On the other hand, if the girlfriend can provide a necessary link between the boyfriend and the alleged victim, immunity may well be an avenue that the Commonwealth chooses to consider. One disturbing aspect about a grant of immunity is that it can essentially be forced upon a witness. For example, in this case, even if the girlfriend does not want to testify against her boyfriend and is not interested in a grant of immunity, the Commonwealth may seek immunity nonetheless. If the girlfriend is then granted immunity, she can no longer claim that she has a Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid testifying, as the grant of immunity will guarantee that no criminal prosecution will result from her testimony. The girlfriend would then be unable to avoid testifying without potentially being held in contempt of court.
While being a potential witness to a murder is not exactly common place, many people do find themselves in a position like the girlfriend – not interested in testifying in court, but possibly caught between a rock and a hard place. If you or a loved one is in such a situation, an experienced attorney can help. Attorney Daniel Cappetta is well versed in the law, and knows the ins and outs of the criminal justice system. He can help you navigate through the difficult and varied situations that can arise as a result of criminal charges. Call him today for a free consultation.