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High court reverses murder conviction of Worcester man

March 11, 2016

BOSTON (AP) — A Worcester man convicted of fatally shooting a college student during a 2010 drug-related robbery should get a new trial because police continued questioning him even after he said he was “done talking,” the state’s highest court ruled Friday.

Donovan K. Smith was convicted in 2012 of first-degree murder in the slaying of Michelle Diaz, 21.

Smith shot the Worcester State University student in the neck as they sat in her car, prosecutors said. They had arranged to meet so Diaz could sell Smith marijuana but instead Smith and four co-conspirators decided they were going to rob her of cash and drugs, according to prosecutors.

Smith denied shooting her.

In his appeal, Smith said he initially waived his Miranda rights, but he later invoked his constitutional right to remain silent when he said he was “done talking.” However, police continued with questioning.

“We conclude that the failure of the police to honor the defendant’s right to terminate questioning ... created a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice and requires the reversal of the defendant’s convictions,” the Supreme Judicial Court ruled. Smith is entitled to a new trial, the court ruled.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said he intends to bring Smith to trial again.

“A lot of hard work went into obtaining the first-degree murder conviction in this case,” he said in an emailed statement. “We intend to bring this case again in order to obtain another first-degree murder conviction.”

Smith’s appeals attorney, Aziz Safar, called the decision a reminder of the protections in the state and federal constitutions. He added that it was the district attorney’s prerogative to prosecute Smith again but that the court’s decision limited the theory on which he can be prosecuted.

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