The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld Crisostomo Lopes's sentence of life without parole for his role in the murder of 14-year-old Nicholas Fomby-Davis on Bowdoin Street in 2010 - as a Boston gang officer watched helplessly from down the street.
The state's highest court ruled Lopes got a fair trial and deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars for his conviction on a charge of first-degree murder.
Lopes and his pal, Joshua Fernandes, then 16, were members of the Homes Avenue gang, which had a beef with the Norton Street gang. According to testimony, Fomby-Davis, who lived on Norton Street, was riding on the back of his brother's scooter on May 30, 2010, when they almost hit Lopes, on a bicycle. Later, Fomby-Davis asked if he could ride the scooter alone. His brother agreed, and gave him his helmet, which looked different from the one the younger teen had been wearing.
Meanwhile, Lopes got Fernandes and they began riding around on Lopes's bicycle, hunting for the guy they thought had almost hit Lopes. A gang-unit officer spotted them looking like they were on a mission and began to trail them:
As the victim drove the scooter down Olney Street toward Bowdoin Street, Officer Williams observed the defendant dart out into the street, grab the victim's shoulder, and motion to his codefendant. As the defendant held the victim, his codefendant removed a gun from his pocket, ran out into the street, and from approximately one foot away fired shots into the victim's chest. The codefendant fled on foot and the defendant picked up his bicycle and rode away.
The officer radioed for help and Fernandes was quickly found and arrested. And then Lopes showed up:
[The officer] drew his firearm and ordered the defendant to get onto the ground. The defendant said, "What are you going to do, shoot me? . . . You can catch one, too." As the defendant was placed into custody, Officer Williams heard him yell, "Homes Ave., motherfuckers." An officer who was another member of the youth violence strike force and who had responded to the scene testified that as he placed the defendant into a transport vehicle, the defendant also twice screamed, "That's right, bitches, Homes Ave. on the block." Officer
In his request to have the verdict overturned, Lopes's lawyer argued Suffolk County prosecutors were excluding jurors because of their race. The court dismissed that saying that while prosecutors were, in fact, using their challenges to exclude college students and other young people from the potential jury, those people do not make up a "protected class" - and that there was no evidence prosecutors sought to bar any jurors because of their race.
The court also rejected an argument that the judge should have excluded testimony from Fomby-Davis's brother and a gang-unit officer about the gang feud as unnecessarily prejudicial, writing that Lopes himself brought up the whole gang issue based on the testimony about him yelling about Homes Avenue to the arresting cops and because the Homes/Norton feud helped establish a motive for the murder.
In this case, the gang evidence was properly admitted because it was relevant to the defendant's motive and intent, particularly in light of the "Homes Ave." statements the defendant made at the time of his arrest for the killing in 2010.