The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld a man's conviction and 2 1/2-year jail sentence for illegal gun possession even though prosecutors failed to show that he knew the thing he grabbed from a friend and then fired into the air twice met the official state definition of a "gun."
In an appeal of his sentence, Francisco Marrero's lawyer argued that because prosecutors must show somebody "knowingly" had possession of a gun, that means they had to prove that Marrero knew the ins and outs of the state's gun-possession law, including the exact definition of the word "gun."
The state's highest court, being learned justices and all, did not simply whip off their collective glasses and go "Son, please," but instead crafted a detailed legal ruling that, in essence, says just that.
The court started by noting that while, yes, prosecutors must prove a defendant "knowingly" had possession of a gun, the simple definition of "gun" is pretty obvious - as opposed to the definition of a "high capacity" weapon, which requires knowing just what makes a weapon "high capacity" and that prosecutors needn't convince a jury that a defendant has been schooled on M.G.L. Chapter 140, section 121.
In this case, where Francisco Marrero was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm, illegal possession of a loaded firearm and discharging a fiream within 500 feet of a building, for an incident in Lowell in 2016, prosecutors sufficiently proved that Marrero grabbed a friend's gun at a party and then shot it into the air twice - no detailed knowledge of the Bartley-Fox Law required.
To rule otherwise, in fact, the court said, would defeat the whole purpose of the law, which is to criminalize gun possession by people without a license:
[P]roving knowledge that a firearm met the statutory definition would entail proving knowledge of the weapon's operability. See G. L. c. 140, § 121. This, in turn, often would require proof that the weapon had been discharged previously, thereby running counter to the statute's goal of criminalizing mere possession.
Marrero's lawyer also argued that prosecutors failed to prove that the shots Marrero fired were not blanks - police never found the gun itself, although they found witnesses and video.
The court rejected that theory:
The defendant argues that the discharges could have been blanks, and the weapon might have been incapable of firing an actual shot or bullet. This farfetched explanation does not negate the strong evidence that the weapon was operable. ... Here, there was sufficient evidence that the weapon met the statutory definition of a firearm.