Boston man’s murder conviction overturned
BOSTON (AP) — The highest court in Massachusetts on Thursday reversed the first-degree murder conviction of a Boston man involved in a shooting outside a local restaurant in 2009 that killed two people, including the restaurant’s chef.
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed Sandro Tavares’ 2011 conviction, saying that the trial judge did not properly answer a jury question about the theory of joint venture and that Tavares could have been convicted of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
“We conclude that the judge’s mistaken response to the jury question regarding the law of joint venture created a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice,” the court wrote.
Tavares’ conviction on a related firearms charge was upheld.
Tavares’ attorney and the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office didn’t return messages seeking comment Thursday.
Tavares did not fire the shots that killed Jovany Eason and Manuel Monteiro outside the Ka’Carlos Bar and Grill in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood in August 2009. Monteiro, the chef and an unintended victim, was struck by a bullet that passed through the restaurant’s window.
According to the court’s account of the shootings, what started as an argument inside the restaurant in the early morning hours spilled outside. At one point, Tavares had a gun and pointed it at Eason, but Tavares’ co-defendant, Emmanuel Pina, grabbed the gun out of Tavares’ hand and opened fire, according to the court.
A bullet passed through the window and struck Monteiro in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Pina then chased Eason down the street, shooting him several times in the back, according to the court.
Pina also was convicted of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. His appeal is pending.
Tavares made several arguments on appeal, including that the state’s case lacked sufficient evidence to convict him based on the joint venture theory, which says that someone who helps carry out a crime can be found equally culpable. He also argued that the judge erred in not instructing the jury on involuntary manslaughter.
“Given the unique context of this trial, in which the evidence that Pina committed murder in the first degree based on deliberate premeditation was strong, but the evidence of the defendant’s intent was open to a number of different interpretations, it was error for the trial judge to respond to the jury’s question in a way that eliminated the possibility that the defendant could be found guilty of a lesser offense than Pina,” the court wrote.