Decision Commonwealth v. Asenjo

Date: 08/15/2017
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Table of Contents

Commonwealth v. Asenjo

Commonwealth v. Asenjo
Supreme Judicial Court, August 15, 2017
(Evidentiary Issues/First Complaint Doctrine/Battered Woman Syndrome)

The critical part of first complaint evidence is the report of a sexual assault, not the identity of the perpetrator. It was error for the judge to interpret the first complaint rule to require the disclosure of the perpetrator's identity to the first complaint witness.

It was error for the judge to admit evidence of the victim's prior disclosures to allow the Commonwealth to explain why she waited to make the disclosure about the defendant's participation in the rape and why she came forward when she did.

A defendant asserting duress under G. L. c. 233, § 23F, based on battered woman syndrome, is not required to present affirmative evidence of abuse as a predicate to the defense.


Although G. L. c. 233, § 23F “provides that a criminal defendant in cases ‘charging the use of force against another . . . shall be permitted to introduce’ certain evidence, it does not require that the use of force is an essential element of the crime in order to apply.”