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Court upholds life for man who murdered a Dorchester 14-year-old in 2010, but says he should get a chance at parole some day

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday that a man convicted of fatally shooting Nicholas Fomby-Davis, 14, on Bowdoin Street - as his friend held the teen - got a fair trial and that police did nothing wrong in the way they questioned him, but that his sentence should be amended to allow for the possibility of parole because he was only 16 at the time.

Joshua Fernandes, then a member of the Homes Avenue gang, was sentenced to life without possibility of parole in 2012 after a jury convicted him and fellow gang member Crisostomo Lopes, also 16 at the time, of first-degree murder.

But in 2013, the state's highest court ruled that life without the possibility of parole for minors convicted of first-degree murder is cruel and unusual punishment. The court's ruling yesterday sends Fernandes's case back to Superior Court for a modification of his sentence to allow for the possibility of parole.

Lopes's first-degree sentence was upheld in 2018.

According to the court's summary of the case, Fomby-Davis and his older brother were riding a scooter around their block on the evening of May 30, 2010, when they almost collided with a guy on a bicycle who darted into the street in front of them. That guy, Fernandes, went and got Lopes and when they returned to Bowdoin, they found Fomby-Davis still riding around on the scooter while his brother was going upstairs to get some money to get something to eat at a nearby fast-food place.

When the victim passed by on the scooter, Lopes darted out into the street, grabbed the victim,and beckoned to the defendant. The defendant approached, removed a gun from his pocket, and shot the victim three or four times at close range. ...

The victim stumbled from the middle of the street into a nearby store, where he fell to the ground and started shaking. He was gasping for air and had blood on his shirt. Hew as carried outside to the sidewalk, where another police officer who arrived on scene attempted to revive him as he passed in and out of consciousness. Paramedics arrived and treated the victim,but by that point he showed no signs of life,and he was pronounced dead on reaching the hospital.The victim had suffered gunshot wounds to the chest, near his left armpit, and on his right thigh.

An off-duty member of the BPD gang unit spotted Fernandes and Lopes skulking around and looking like they were up to no good, so he pulled over to observe them - just as they grabbed Fomby-Davis and murdered him, before the cop could get out of his car.

Among the reasons Fernandes's lawyer gave for overturning the verdict was that a Suffolk County prosecutor used his juror challenges to keep young people off the jury. The court ruled, however, that unlike race or gender, age is not something a lawyer can't use as a reason to exclude somebody from a jury.

PDF icon Complete ruling182.32 KB

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I thought the Supreme Court said that the life without parole given to teens is cruel and usual punishment. Wouldn't it be in this situation?

Voting closed 10

The article specifically discusses this point.

Voting closed 14

At least as I understand it, but I am not a lawyer, so somebody who is please jump in and correct me ...

The Supreme Court's Miller decision said that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a minor is cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment if the judge in the case does not hold a post-conviction hearing on whether the teen should be allowed to one day be able to request parole. The 5-4 decision rested, in part, on the fact that the criminal-justice system already treats adults and minors differently, because of the "unique characteristics of juvenile offenders."

The Supreme Judicial Court's Diatchenko decision (involving a 17-year-old who stabbed somebody to death in Kenmore Square in 1981) took that a step further, ruling that under Article 26 of the state constitution, minors simply cannot be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, period (this is an example of how the Massachusetts constitution sometimes affords greater rights than the federal one).

So in Massachusetts, a 16-year-old can still be convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life, but he has to be given a chance at parole at some point.

Our decision should not be construed to suggest that individuals who are under the age of eighteen when they commit murder in the first degree necessarily should be paroled once they have served a statutorily designated portion of their sentences. The severity of this particular crime cannot be minimized even if committed by a juvenile offender. ...

At the appropriate time, it is the purview of the Massachusetts parole board to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime, including the age of the offender, together with all relevant information pertaining to the offender's character and actions during the intervening years since conviction. By this process, a juvenile homicide offender will be afforded a meaningful opportunity to be considered for parole suitability.

Voting closed 14

Is cruel and unusual, too bad a court can't give the deceased a 2nd chance.
Hopefully he wont get paroled till he's 80 and drops dead the next day while waiting for someone to pick him up from prison

Voting closed 43

Sorry, the Constitution doesn't say "no cruel and unusual punishments unless the crime was also cruel and unusual".

Voting closed 11

Thanks for the input on my opinion.
And why are you sorry?

Voting closed 15

I am so glad I grew up in 1970s Cape Cod.

16yr-olds with guns was unheard of
outside of hunting or related "sportsmanship" activities.

Amend the sentence?
What kind of killer-breeding nonsense is that?
Age should be irrelevant. What that 16yr-old did is first degree murder
if he had an accomplice who held the victim down for execution.

Supreme Judicial Court has much consideration for executioners.
All this from the "Willie Horton" state.

Willie is incarcerated in Maryland, now
sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 85 years.

Voting closed 11

Say, they ever figure out who killed the Lady of the Dunes?

Voting closed 12

This never would have happened in old Cape Cod.

Voting closed 8

This is why I hate people.

Voting closed 8

Remember, should doesn't mean will.

Voting closed 8

So many who lost loved ones are suffering from complicated grief from losing their friends and family members this way. Anger and depression and sadness.

Voting closed 8