The Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts

The Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts explained the reason for the inclusion of lesser included offences when instructing the jury. The court explained that: “Our conclusion that the Commonwealth was entitled to a manslaughter instruction is fortified by the policy favoring instructing juries on lesser included offenses. The doctrine serves the public purpose of allowing the jury to convict of the offense established by the evidence, rather than forcing them to choose between convicting the defendant of an offense not fully established by the evidence or acquitting, even though the defendant is guilty of some offense.

” The Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts went to state that the result of the judge’s decision not to pur the option of involuntary manslaughter had the result of preventing the jury “considering a lesser degree of culpability for Woodward. ”  Having determined that the judges decision was indeed an error the Supreme Court went on to add that the error: “…did not prejudice the Commonwealth's case against Woodward in the final analysis. ” The proof is in the jury’s verdict of second degree murder.

Moreover, the court explained that even if the judge had allowed the prosecution’s request in respect of the inclusion of involuntary manslaugher and the jury convicted the defendant of second degrree murder the judge was at liberty to reject the second degree murder conviction and substitute it with an involuntary manslaughter conviction. The authority for this judicial power is provided for under the General Law of Massachusetts Rule 25(b)(2) which provides as follows:

“the judge may on a renewed motion for a directed verdict of not guilty pursuant to the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure set aside the verdict and order a new trial, or order the entry of a finding of guilty of any offense included in the offense charged in the indictment or complaint. " Citing other cases heard by the Commonwealth of Massachussets, the Judicial Supreme Corut explained that there are soung reasons for Rule 25. The primary purpose was to ensure “that the result in every criminal case is consonant with justice.

”  Moreover, a previous decision rendered in Commonwealth v Brown, 376 Mass. 156 held that : “the responsibility may be exercised by the trial judge, even if the evidence warrants the jury’s verdict. ” It therefore follows that the judge’s job throughout the trial, from beginning to end is to ensure consitency and predictability in the criminal justice process. In this sense the judge’s job is pureley clinical. He or she precides over the trial ensuring that justice is dispensed according to law and according to the principles enshrined in concepts of natural justice.