Commonwealth v. Adjutant – Careful What You Wish For

One of the more helpful SJC decisions in the past few years for the defense bar is Commonwealth v. Adjutant, 443 Mass 649 (2005),  which allows the defendant to present evidence of the alleged victim’s propensity to violence as a way to establish who was the initial aggressor in cases involving acts of violence, including murder. It is particularly helpful in self-defense cases because the defendant is no longer restricted to showing simply that the alleged victim had "a reputation in the community for violence", which he knew about beforehand. Now, as a result of Adjutant, the defendant in  self-defense cases, may not only show that that the alleged victim was a violent person, but may also introduce specific acts of violence committed by the alleged victim, whether or not [the defendant] was the victim and whether or not the defendant knew about them, in order to prove that the alleged victim was, in fact, the initial aggressor. I have had good success with Adjutant so far, and have used it in a number of self-defense cases already, including some murder cases. In fact, I will be serving Adjutant notice on the prosecution very soon in another 1st degree murder case I am handling. However, as useful a tool as Adjutant evidence can be in connection with self-defense cases, I sometimes warn defense attorneys to be careful of what they wish for. Sometimes too much Adjutant  evidence can turn out to be harmful, especially where the client/defendant has been a victim himself of the alleged victim’s past acts of violence. There, the law of unintended consequences may apply because rather than establishing who was the initial aggressor, in such cases, Adjutant can sometimes provide the prosecution with a revenge motive that otherwise didn’t exist in the underlying facts of the case.

If you have been accused of a violent crime and you need a to represent you please contact Brad Bailey at 781-589-2828

Brad Bailey was a felony prosecutor in Manhattan (NY) and an Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County (MA), where he prosecuted murders, sex crimes and serious narcotics trafficking cases. He went on to prosecute federal drug crimes and the mafia/organized crime as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston. A six time Super Lawyer and Top 100 Trial Attorney, he is AV rated by Martindale and rated "Superb" by Avvo. Brad has been a member of the defense bar since 1999, and uses his vast experience on both sides of the law to, in addition to all crimes, defend clients accused of state and federal drug offenses throughout Massachusetts and the New England Region, in the State of NY, and elsewhere in the United States. He is widely regarded as one of