BOSTON, Oct. 11, 2013—A Suffolk Superior Court judge has joined the state’s highest court in denying a new trial for the man who killed Jason Bachiller, Jihad Chankhour, Edwin Duncan, and Christopher Vieira in the basement of a Bourneside Street home seven years ago, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said today.
In an expansive, 71-page decision, Judge Patrick Brady used the phrase “without merit” more than two dozen times to describe a motion by CALVIN CARNES, Jr. (D.O.B. 8/8/86) seeking a new trial in one of the bloodiest crimes in Boston’s history. In a separate decision, Brady also denied any further evidentiary hearings in the case, effectively putting an end to the defendant’s appeals from four convictions for first-degree murder, three counts of armed robbery, two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, and single counts of larceny over $250 and unlawful possession of a large-capacity firearm.
“Calvin Carnes got the fair trial that he denied four young men when he murdered them in cold blood,” Conley said. “There was no third-party culprit. There was no prosecutorial misconduct. There was no ineffective assistance of counsel. No one cut corners or bent the rules. The evidence before, during, and after trial proved conclusively that Calvin Carnes and no one else took those lives. Judge Brady’s decision is absolutely correct – this motion was without merit.”
Carnes claimed that his 2008 convictions in the massacre should be vacated and that he deserved a new trial based on “newly discovered evidence” in the form of two convicted double-murderers and a third prison inmate who claimed that Carnes’ co-defendant, ROBERT TURNER (D.O.B. 12/6/86), confessed to being the gunman in the Dec. 13, 2005, quadruple murder and theft of three firearms. Brady, who heard testimony from all three, disagreed.
“I reject the testimony of [Craig] Smith, [Brian] Cavitt, and [Feliz] Cruz because I do not find them at all credible,” Brady wrote. “In the present case, it appears that Smith’s likely motivation in providing information against Turner was to obtain assignment to a prison less severe than Souza-Baranowski. I cannot say precisely what may have motivated Cavitt and Cruz in testifying falsely, but nonetheless the testimony strikes me as highly implausible and unreliable.”
Turner pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the murders and to possessing the handgun, shotgun, and AK-47 stolen from the scene – Edwin Duncan’s basement recording studio. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 14 to 16 years; he received 11½ to 13 and died in prison in 2011.
Carnes also portrayed a pair of reports from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council as newly discovered evidence casting doubt on the ballistics and fingerprint evidence that tied him to the crimes. Brady again disagreed.
Citing a 2011 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, Brady wrote that “The SJC explained that there is a reasonable basis on which to conclude that forensic ballistics testimony can assist the jury in finding facts. The defendant’s claim that the NRC Report is newly discovered evidence which could render [a Boston Police ballistician’s] testimony inadmissible is without merit in light of the [2011 SJC] decision.”
Brady also cited a 2010 SJC decision on fingerprint analysis, which recommended in light of the NAS report that “[t]estimony to the effect that a latent print matches, or is ‘individualized’ to, a known print … should be presented as opinion, not a fact, and opinions expressing absolute certainty about, or the infallibility of, an ‘individualization’ of a print should be avoided.”
“The defendant’s claim that the NAS Report could render [a Boston Police fingerprint analyst’s] testimony inadmissible is without merit in light of the [2010 SJC] decision, which would only limit the preciseness with which she could testify to a positive fingerprint identification,” Brady wrote. “Nothing suggests that her testimony would have been precluded.”
Brady also dismissed the notion that the three inmates’ testimony about Turner’s alleged confession, together with diluted forensic testimony as to ballistics and fingerprints could have affected the jury’s verdict.
“[T]he inmates’ testimony about Turner’s confession was not credible, and any reduction in the forcefulness of the scientific evidence would not have cast ‘real doubt on the justice of the conviction,’” he wrote, citing the threshold for the court to grant a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.
Carnes also argued that the attorneys who represented him at trial and on appeal were ineffective for, among other things, failing to investigate a potential third-party culprit or remedy what he characterized as prosecutorial misconduct.
“[T]he defendant does not state how any of the evidence would establish a viable third-party culprit defense,” Brady wrote on the former issue, noting that Carnes’ trial attorney did, in fact, raise the issue of other individuals as possibly being the killer, but that “simply asserting that another suspect has a criminal record … is not evidence that the third party committed the crime.”
Brady also did away with Carnes’ allegations that prosecutors violated his constitutional rights at trial, noting that the Supreme Judicial Court had already addressed the issue in its unanimous 2010 decision affirming his convictions.
“The SJC, on appeal, reviewed this issue and explicitly ruled that the ‘Commonwealth checked the criminal offender record information (CORI) of all jurors before empanelment was completed and timely shared this information with defense counsel,’” Brady wrote. “The SJC noted with approval the Commonwealth’s practice in Commonwealth v. Cousin, which is analogous to the Commonwealth’s practice here … The Commonwealth’s actions here were not improper and counsel was not ineffective.”
Assistant District Attorney David McGowan, formerly of Conley’s Appeals Division, argued in defense of the convictions and against a new trial. Kara Hayes, chief of the DA’s Victim Witness Assistance Program, was the assigned victim-witness advocate. Attorney Rosemary Scappicio represented Carnes for this motion.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.