Appeals Court (March 8, 2006)

The "dwelling place of another" for purposes of the home invasion statute refers to a person's place of habitation, which is a question of occupancy, not ownership interest.

The defendant was convicted of murdering one Robert Campbell in his girlfriend's apartment. The defendant and his girlfriend had been in a seven-year relationship; during three of those years they lived together. Three months prior to the murder, the girlfriend asked the defendant to move out. The defendant moved out, returned his keys, removed his belongings, but continued to pay rent and household expenses. During those three months, the girlfriend continued to see the defendant, and on occasion invited him to spend the night. On the date of the murder, the defendant and his girlfriend had a fight. Later that night, the defendant called his girlfriend many times; she refused to speak to him. Suspecting another man was in the apartment, the defendant broke the back door lock, observed the victim in the apartment, pulled a gun and shot the victim three times, killing him.

The only charge the defendant appealed was his conviction under the home invasion statute (c. 265, §18C), arguing the home was his dwelling place and, because he did not enter the home "of another", the judge improperly denied his motion for a required finding of not guilty. The Appeals Court disagreed and upheld the conviction.

The home invasion statute does not define "dwelling place of another." Therefore, the Court looked to related burglary statutes, which defined "dwelling house" as the place of habitation or occupancy. Applying that definition to the home invasion statute, the Court found sufficient evidence that the defendant did not have a right of habitation or occupancy in the home, despite the fact that he occasionally stayed overnight, and contributed to household expenses. "The matter was one of fact properly before the jury on sufficient evidence permitting them to find beyond a reasonable doubt that [the home] was the dwelling of another."