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First-degree murder conviction for Chiara Levin's death

The Globe reports a Suffolk Superior Court jury today found Manuel "Spank" Andrade guilty for the shooting death of the visiting Kentucky student outside a Geneva Avenue party on March 24, 2007.

The verdict means Andrade will be sentenced to life behind bars without possibility of parole. Ironically, Casimiro Barros, whose gun prosecutors say actually killed Levin during a running gun battle with Andrade, was convicted last month of voluntary manslaughter, which means he could get out in 20 years.

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How did they get to that charge, I wonder? There's no sign of premeditation, and certainly no evidence of an intent to kill Levin. In fact, this guy didn't kill anybody.
I guess the law doesn't matter when emotions get stirred up. Why have "degrees" of murder if the classifications are going to be arbitrarily stretched and distorted like this?
In any event, it's a shame that Conley and the BPD haven't had more success prosecuting murders where the victims are minorities. They're sure talented (and creative) with the high profile cases.

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"It doesn't matter who fired the fatal shot," Conley said. "Massachusetts law allows a first-degree murder conviction when an innocent bystander is killed in the gunfight you started."

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Interesting. I didn't see that comment when we got the first-degree conviction for Cornelius Brown last week. That was an incredibly complex case with no fewer than three individuals thrown up as the potential killers of Michael Wiggins, a black man who died a few months after Levin was killed. It took months in the grand jury to indict Brown, two weeks to prosecute the case, and four days for the jury to reach a verdict. You couldn't spare a moment to read about it?

How about John Austin -- a black man stabbed to death in the South End? Comments? No? Nothing? Never heard of him? First-degree murder conviction? Okay, how about Edward "Red" Quiles? Latino? No fixed address? Long-term drug dependency? Not exactly a member of the Power Elite? His killer was convicted on the charges as indicted earlier this month? Not weighing in on that one? No?

In fact, of the 10 homicide convictions in Suffolk County this year, only three involve white victims, and two of those convictions were for Levin's death. Only hers and Noemi Roman's deaths could reasonably be called "high profile" in the sense that they got more than one article in one paper, but I'll let you define the term. The 2009 conviction rate is a bit above 83% so far, more than 10 points over the DOJ's national average, so you might want to define "success," too.

The very suggestion that more resources or "creativity" are applied to cases with white victims when the overwhelming majority of our successful prosecutions involve victims of color, to whom no newspaper or web site is paying attention, is baloney. It may be intentional and disingenuous or it maybe ignorant and uninformed, but it's baloney either way and shameful to boot.

As for the idea that Andrade is guilty of something less than first-degree murder because he set in motion a chain of events that killed someone besides his intended target, I'd suggest you consider the legal principle of causation -- which this jury clearly did. It isn't "creative." It's on the books in almost every, if not every, state in the Union. When Manuel Andrade started a shootout within arm's length of a car full of bystanders and his co-defendant hits one of them, he is just as responsible as the one who fired the fatal shot -- legally and morally.

The jury got to its decision by following the facts and applying the law. There's nothing arbitrary about it.

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It always amazed me at how little people new sometimes except from what they read in paper "x" or website "y".

Keep up the good work.

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Now grow some balls and prosecute Bush for the first degree murders of every US soldier from Massachusetts who was killed in Iraq. Get back to me when you file charges.

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And I'm glad that you sincerely believe in the overall equity of resources allocated to homicides. That's a good thing. However, you brought up a few cases that were not really comparable- and according to Universal Hub you only got a second-degree murder conviction for Austin's killer, Juan Figueroa. Maybe Universal Hub got it wrong, or perhaps there was a correction issued that I missed. Again, however, second-degree murder seems appropriate for situations where an unanticipated conflict, perhaps involving drugs and alcohol, results in someone being killed. According to your website, the killer of homeless Quiles was only sentenced to 5-7 years, while Levin's "killer" is going away for life. Apparently this was not a first-degree murder case, and it was perhaps a little disingenuous of you to bring it up in this context, as a defense for equity in aggressive prosecutions and sentencing.
Can you point to another case (preferably recent) in which the person convicted of first-degree murder did not in fact kill anyone?

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Your comment about the Suffolk County DA's office indicting Bush is such lunacy that every other point you attempted to make got overshadowed.

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But you should check out Vincent Bugliosi's book, "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder". He was the guy who successfully prosecuted Charles Manson for the Tate-LaBianca murders, convicting the mastermind although Manson himself never actually killed anybody. He does a good job laying out the case for prosecution of Bush, who (among other things) withheld important information from Congress in making the case for war. It's my opinion that if you fail to prosecute the most serious crimes it undermines the entire judicial system, as well as the overall sense of moral responsibility in our culture. Although most of you probably don't agree, I think that war is pretty serious, given the scale of the murder and mayhem it involves.

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Years ago, I would have cared more about this endeavor.

Right now, I think middle-class people are generally more worried about whether they're going to be able to keep their house. Or wondering whether they're going to need those social welfare programs that they previously either supported or disparaged (in neither case ever thinking that *they* would need the programs themselves).

I imagine it's sorta like being shot. Suddenly, you're more concerned with getting to the hospital and escaping death or permanent disability, than you are with mustering your last energy to tackle the fleeing shooter.

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I want my local DA's office concentrating on crime on the streets of Boston. Yeah, I'm provincial like that.

Maybe Bugliosi can team up with Ramsey Clark and Chuck Turner.

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Like hassling artists who live in other cities by piling spurious charges on top of the one real one, and stamping out the dreaded mooninite menace!

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Yup, the sins of W and Co. will be haunting this country for decades, and though I haven't read it, it's quite possible that Bugliosi has helped to unearth some of that with his book.

But Dan, the way you twisted the discussion to dump on the DA's office for not indicting Bush was just classic blogosphere lameness. If you think DA Conley should go after Bush, start a separate discussion and make your case.

And while you're at it, talk about the legal and practical realities of a county prosecutor indicting Bush & Co. for crimes committed elsewhere, on behalf of all Massachusetts residents who have died in the Iraq War, while still managing to investigate and prosecute crimes here in our own backyard.

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You questioned the legitimacy of convicting someone who did not actually kill someone. Yet you point to that in your Bugliosi example in his prosecution of Manson. Though you purport yourself to be well read, you obviously lack any semblance of common sense and reason. And swirly girl makes an equally asinine point about the "artist" who was prosecuted.

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I can think of four off the top of my head: Ismael Vasquez, Luis Vasquez, and Harold Parker, all convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder for the stabbing death of a homeless woman on an abandoned railroad trestle. It was none of them who killed her or was even present for the killing but rather a fourth man who walked her out there, stabbed her, and threw her over the edge. More recently, Terrance Brown, who with Nathan Rivera robbed two Mission Hill residents, was in 2006 found guilty of both their murders even though Rivera actually shot them.

At issue the Andrade trial, however, was the 1997 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Commonwealth v. Felix Santiago, in which the court wrote, "Where the defendant chooses to engage in a gun battle with another with the intent to kill or do grievous bodily harm and a third party is killed, the defendant may be held liable for the homicide even if it was the defendant's opponent who fired the fatal shot."

I probably don't have to say that this is exactly the same fact pattern as in Levin's death, but it probably bears reiteration given the inquiry. The charge of first-degree murder was appropriate to the facts, the evidence, and Massachusetts law given that Andrade started the incident by shooting a man inside the party and bringing the resulting firefight to within an arm's length of innocent bystanders.

I own up to a faulty memory in the Figueroa trial. He was indicted for first-degree murder and convicted of second. My error. Quiles' killer was indicted for and convicted of manslaughter, which was appropriate to the mutual combat in which both men were engaged when Quiles was stabbed.

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Judge Frank Gaziano today sentenced Andrade to life without parole for the death of Chiara Levin, 9-10 for shooting a guy inside the party, 4-5 for pointing the gun at Andrade, 9-10 for firing it at him, and 4-5 for possessing the gun in the first
place, according to the Suffolk County DA's office.

"It's been said that no parents should have to bury their child," Gaziano said from the bench. "Let me add to that that no parents should have to watch their child's bloodstained clothing displayed to a jury."

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