Jurors in the Mattapan massacre trial sent questions to the judge Tuesday, seeking clarification of a legal issue and charges against the defendant, Dwayne Moore, who is on trial for the second time in the killings.
Deliberations stalled Friday when one juror called in sick and again on Monday when judge Jeffrey Locke removed a juror for violating his order against conducting outside research on the case.An alternate was appointed, and deliberations began anew Monday afternoon.
The questions indicate that the panel is once again immersed in deciding the fate of Moore, 35, who is facing four counts of first-degree murder, as well as charges of armed robbery, armed home invasion, armed assault with intent to murder, and aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon.
In a note sent to Locke around 2:34 p.m. Tuesday, jurors asked several questions that Locke later shared with the public from the bench.
The jurors asked for clarification on the issue of “joint venture,” the legal concept that holds that people can be convicted of murder if they agree to participate in the crime, even if they do not pull the trigger.
Speaking from the bench, Locke told jurors that joint venture means a person has “knowing participation with another or others to commit a crime and sharing the mental state’’ and that the person must be an active participant in some way.
Mere knowledge is not sufficient. “There must be some involvement,” Locke said.
Jurors also raised concerns about seeming inconsistencies in the legal standard they must apply when reaching a verdict on the remaining charges.
The judge also told jurors he was confused by the wording of a third question and asked them to rewrite it. At that point, the jurors asked to be released for the day.
Moore has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and defense lawyer John Amabile has told jurors that his client was wrongly accused. The jury in his first trial acquitted Moore’s codefendant, Edward Washington, but could not reach a unanimous verdict on the charges against Moore.
Moore is accused of killing 21-year-old Simba Martin; Martin’s girlfriend, Eyanna Flonory, 21; her 2-year-old son, Amanihotep Smith; and Levaughn Washum-Garrison, 22, Martin’s friend, who had slept on a couch at Martin’s Sutton Street house on Sept. 28, 2010. A fifth man, Marcus Hurd, was shot in the head but survived.
Longtime criminal defense attorney Michael Doolin, a former prosecutor, said the jury’s questions should not be construed as an indication that the panel is leaning toward acquittal or conviction.
“To infer one way or the other based on what they’ve asked, in my experience, is grasping at straws,” said the Boston-based attorney.
“The jury is trying to do a very difficult job, and generally speaking, you really can’t take any guidance from the questions asked. They could come from one juror or several jurors.”Brian Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBallou.