Commonwealth v. Adjutant

Defending serious criminal charges is never an easy task, but an experienced defense attorney knows the proper tools and resources available to him and can use them to help level a decidedly un-even playing field on behalf of his clients. One such tool for Massachusetts’ criminal defense lawyers is found in the SJC’s 2005 decision Commonwealth v. Adjutant; see also Com v Pring-Wilson. In a nutshell, where a credible claim of self-defense is raised, Adjutant allows the defendant to introduce into evidence specific acts of violence committed by the victim, when deemed relevant/probative on the issue of who might have been the initial aggressor in assault cases (including murder), regardless of whether or not the defendant was aware of the same. (Before Adjutant, the Rules of Evidence limited what defendants could offer about a victim’s reputation to a narrow Common Law exception permitting introduction of the victim’s reputation for violence in the community, “solely if he or she [i.e., the defendant] knew about it” at the time of the offense.) Adjutant is particularly helpful in states like Massachusetts where model jury instructions, generally, apprise jurors that a claim of self-defense does not apply in instances where the jury finds the defendant to have been the initial aggressor.

To be sure, both Adjutant and Pring -Wilson vest the trial judge with wide discretion in determining what is and is not relevant/admissible evidence, and many judges tend towards limiting Adjutant evidence solely to certified convictions of violent/assaultive behavior. A good defense attorney knows, however, that this shouldn’t necessarily be so; which is why you should always select an attorney highly experienced in defending against charges alleging serious acts of violence and/or in asserting credible claims of self-defense.

Here at Brad Bailey Law, we are extremely experienced in raising successful self-defense claims, including filing and litigating motions seeking to introduce Adjutant evidence in connection with the same. In many instances, a successful Adjutant motion not only provides the margin between a defense victory and defeat, but can also result in sentence exposure being reduced --- in some cases from the overwhelming “life-without parole” to much more manageable jeopardy that preserves hope for release and rebuilding of one’s life. Cases in point: Brad Bailey Law has achieved successful outcomes in 1st degree murder cases (where the defendants were facing a life sentence with no possibility of parole in each case) in which their knowledge about, and skillful use of, Adjutant evidence resulted in dramatic, two level charge reductions to voluntary manslaughter. This avoided not only a murder 1 sentence, but also the revised murder 2 sentence, (which now carries a mandatory sentence of 15-25 years to life in MA). By comparison, the voluntary manslaughter convictions won in each case carry a maximum potential sentence of 20 years – with several clients sentenced to years below that maximum, and obviously years upon years less than they were facing had they been convicted on murder 1 or murder 2; see for example: Com v. EC, Com v. DH, Com. v AP, and Com. v. HP. Suffice it to say, with the stakes involved in, and the police resources devoted to, prosecuting murder 1 and murder 2 cases, there is no doubt a reduction in exposure to even a possible maximum manslaughter sentence is already a definite “win.”

So whether facing charges of: domestic assault and battery; assault and battery with a dangerous weapon; aggravated assault and battery; armed assault with intent to murder; attempted murder; or murder 1 charge, it is critical you choose an experienced defense an attorney highly familiar with all the tools and resources available to help maximize your chances at acquittal, but who also has an established track record of gaining clients their freedom. With 33 years of experience --- both as a former state and federal prosecutor and long-time criminal defense attorney --- Brad Bailey fits that precise description. No matter the client or the circumstances, he is the best choice for any self-defense case, particularly those with a viable Adjutant challenge.