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Decision Commonwealth v. Vejovis
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Commonwealth v. Vejovis
Commonwealth v. Caius Veiovis
Supreme Judicial Court, July 19, 2017
(Evidentiary Issues/Prior Bad Acts)
In this case, there were three victims brutally tortured and dismembered by three perpetrators. The sole issue at trial was the identity of the third killer – being this defendant. During a search of the defendant’s apartment, the police discovered various items; including, anatomical drawings from a medical textbook with images of human dissections and amputation of body parts, a few of them were attached to the wall. Photographs of these items were admitted at trial.
There are three relevant, noncharacter purposes, to the admission of this evidence. First, “the anatomical drawings are admissible as a different species of identity evidence: evidence of idiosyncratic conduct by a defendant that, in light of the specific evidence in a case, tends to identify the defendant as a perpetrator of a crime.” The probative value of this sort of identity evidence depends on its connection to the other evidence in the case that connects the idiosyncratic conduct to the identity of the perpetrator. In this case, the anatomical drawings would not qualify as identity evidence if the co-defendant had not identified the third person as someone who enjoyed “cutting [the victims] up.”
The second relevant, noncharacter purpose, is to show state of mind. These drawings found in the defendant’s room are probative to the defendant’s state of mind, in particular, someone who is intrigued by amputation and human dissection.
The third relevant, noncharacter purpose, is to explain what otherwise might seem to a jury as an inexplicable act of violence.
Note: There were four primary claims on appeal, this case update only addresses the admission of photographs depicting human dissections and amputation of body parts for the purpose of prior bad act (or other act) evidence under Mass.G.Evid. §404 (b) (2017).