The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a man who was present when an East Boston resident had his eye and brain pierced by a knife tossed from a third-floor landing during a loud argument in 1984 has to provide a DNA sample so that his uncle, who was convicted of first-degree murder for the death, can try again to win his release.
A Superior Court judge had ordered Leroy Randolph to supply the sample after his uncle, Richard Randolph, was able to get DNA from the knife sampled and submitted a report he claimed showed his DNA was not on the weapon.
Richard Randolph has been trying to win his freedom for decades, so far unsuccessfully. He demanded his nephew give up some of his DNA to see if maybe it matched anything on the knife; the younger Randolph was part of the fracas that led to Brian Golden's fatal injuries on the ground outside 1 Vallar Rd. in the Orient Heights development on Aug. 2. 1984.
According to the court's summary of the case, and a summary from an earlier decision, Richard Randolph, then 23, Leroy, then 18, and other relatives had been out drinking and carousing when they returned early in the morning to Vallar Road, where Richard Randolph's mother lived in an apartment above Brian Golden - who was among several neighbors who confronted the Randolphs about their rambunctious ways as they drove recklessly around the development.
As it sped away, Brian Golden (the victim of the murder) chased the car in anger. A few minutes later the defendant and his brother burst into Golden's apartment. The defendant carried a baseball bat and his brother was armed with a board. Golden's wife, Linda, was in the apartment with her two children. She ordered the intruders to leave. She screamed for help to her husband, who was outside. The defendant and his brother announced that they would kill her, the children and her husband. They hit her back and legs with the bat and board three or four times before she was able to elude them by leaving the apartment. The defendant and his brother ran upstairs to their mother's apartment as Brian Golden finally arrived. He was angry and challenged the defendant (Golden was on the second floor landing and the defendant was on the third floor landing) to come down so that he (Golden) could kill him. The defendant and his brother responded in kind with their threat to kill Golden. Moments later, a television, a stereo, a bird cage, bottles of mustard and ketchup and silverware came cascading down from the third floor targeted for Golden. There was disputed testimony as to whether Golden held a knife at this time.
The defendant threw a knife at Golden. It pierced his eye and he fell over. Linda Golden extracted the knife. An ambulance took Golden to the hospital where he died and where Linda was treated for bruises and lacerations.
At least according to prosecutors, who convinced a Suffolk Superior Court jury that Richard Randolph had been the one to throw the knife and that he was guilty of first-degree murder. In 1991 and 2000, the SJC rejected his requests for a new trial, in the first instance despite what he claimed were witnesses willing to testify it was actually Leroy Randolph who had tossed the knife that killed Golden.
In 2019, Richard Randolph began the process again to seek a new trial. He asked for and got permission to have DNA testing done on residue left on the knife, still held as evidence. According to the court:
The testing revealed that a match between Richard Randolph's DNA and DNA recovered from the murder weapon is extremely unlikely.
Last year, Randolph petitioned in Suffolk Superior Court for an order to make Leroy Randolph supply a DNA sample. Leroy Randolph objected, but Judge Christine Roach agreed with the uncle and ordered the nephew to provide a sample, under a state law related to pre-trial evidence gathering and biologic samples.
In its own ruling today, the state's highest court upheld that order, rejecting Leroy Randolph's arguments that the knife had been improperly handled by too many people to make testing of 37-year-old DNA worthy as potential evidence and that making him supply a sample would violate his Fourth Amendment rights because the results could be used against him should he turn out to be tried for the crime.
The court said that evidence showed that only two other people besides the tosser had touched the knife - the victim's wife, who pulled it out of his head, and a detective - and that, in any case, Richard Randolph's attorney has proposed using a DNA testing method that might be to differentiate DNA from different individuals.
The court continued that the Constitution does not apply in this case, because it is a private individual - the older Randolph - who is seeking the DNA sample, not the state.
It would be premature for us to take up the question whether Leroy's DNA properly may be used as evidence against him in a future prosecution. We note, however, that Leroy is free to request, in the Superior Court, that his DNA be produced subject to an appropriate protective order.
The court said that such a protective order could include a requirement that the sample be used only in considerations on whether to release Richard Randolph, but not to prosecute Leroy Randolph. The Suffolk County District Attorney's office has yet to indicate whether it would seek to investigate and possibly charge Leroy Randolph for the murder should his DNA be on the knife.