The state's high court today affirmed the first-degree murder convictions of Calvin Carnes Jr., who shot four men to death in the basement of a Dorchester home because he wanted a handgun owned by one of the victims.
In its unanimous ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said the trial of Carnes in a Boston courtroom was handled properly by Suffolk Superior Court judges. The SJC also said that Carnes's claim that a judge mishandled jury deliberations did not warrant the court taking the rare step of ordering a new trial
"We discern no reason to order a new trial or reduce the convictions of murder in the first degree to a lesser degree of guilt,'' Justice Judith Cowin wrote for the SJC. "Reversal for abuse of discretion in these circumstances is rare.''
Carnes was convicted of killing Jason Bachiller, 21; Jihad Chankhour, 22; Edwin "E.J." Duncan, 21; and Christopher Vieira, 19, in a basement recording studio of a home on Bourneside Street in Dorchester on Dec. 13, 2005. Vieira, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley's office, legally owned a 9mm handgun that Carnes wanted.
Carnes took the gun from Vieira, shot him, then turned the gun on the three others as they tried to run away, Conley's office said.
Carnes's appellate attorney, Ellen Zucker, had contended that Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle should have declared a mistrial after jurors repeatedly reported being deadlocked on a verdict. The SJC said, however, they would not second-guess Hinkle's decisions at the time of the 2008 trial.
Zucker said in a statement that the SJC's ruling has devastated Carnes's family. "The Carnes family is profoundly disappointed in the SJC's decision of today,'' she said in the statement. "For what it means for their son and for the constitutional promise of a fair trial, it is a sad day.''
In a statement, Conley applauded the court's decision to keep Carnes' conviction intact.
"From that terrible night in 2005 through all the post-conviction proceedings, this case was investigated and prosecuted with one goal: to ensure that a mass murderer was held accountable for the lives he took and the families he shattered,'' he said.
"We're gratified that the high court affirmed the four murder convictions against Mr. Carnes and recognized the underlying fairness and integrity of his trial,'' Conley said.
Carnes is serving life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
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