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Commonwealth v. Louise Woodward, 427 Mass. 659 (1998) - Essay Example

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Name Instructor Course Date Commonwealth v. Louise Woodward, 427 Mass. 659 (1998) Matthew Eappen was on 4th February 1997 taken to the Boston’s Children Hospital after sustaining a serious injury to the head. Even though the child was given emergency treatment his condition worsened and he was eventually declared dead on 9th February…
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Commonwealth v. Louise Woodward, 427 Mass. 659 (1998)
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Download file to see previous pages The murder trial of Louise Woodward began on October 6 1997. The trial lasted for three weeks after which the sitting judge instructed the jury with regard to first and second-degree murder. The instructions concerning manslaughter were not given since Woodward has asked the judge to leave them out. On 30 October, Woodward was found guilty of second degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. After a post judgment relief motion by Woodward on 19 November, the judge reduced the sentence initially given by making the charge manslaughter. Woodward was then sentenced to 279 days that the judge considered had been served during her trial and during the time of waiting for action on the post judgment relief. The judge however denied Woodward’s request for a retrial or a judgment of not guilty. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed an appeal against the vacation of the murder conviction. In their appeal, the commonwealth argued that the judge did not have a right to change the jury’s sentence and that he erred in denying the request of the state to instruct the jury on manslaughter. The commonwealth argued that it had brought evidence to the court that could convict the accused on either first or second-degree murder or manslaughter. Woodward rejected the option of manslaughter and therefore the judge erred in availing this sentence to her. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts argued that whereas the defendant may request instructions for lesser crimes, the decision on whether to include such an instruction to the jury does not rest with the defendant (McBrewster 98-102). They argued that the defendant lacks the technical capacity to make such decisions. They also argued that in the instance of Woodward, that she requested be left out was for a lesser offence which was unprecedented in any jurisdiction. Their contention was that all instruction should have been included in order to give the jury a chance to decide upon the evidence rather than restricting their choices. The Supreme Court in ruling on the appeal ruled in favor of the judge in asserting that the judge had powers according to the Massachusetts rules of criminal procedure to vacate the sentence given by a jury. The court asserted that the judge had offered reasons for vacating the sentence even as the law did not require him to do so. The court also upheld the principle used in other cases in asserting that confusion and inexperience rather than malice informed the killing of the child. The Supreme Court argued that the judge is more capable of making judgment that is more relevant since he is more knowledgeable in the law and has the opportunity to review witnesses in court (Conrad 65-6). Woodward also appealed the case arguing upon two critical issues. Woodward argues that the loss or suppression of evidence by the state would make it just to vacate her indictment since she has been denied an opportunity at presenting potentially exculpatory evidence (Meinhold 175). Woodward also argued that the commonwealth denied her rights by not disclosing that the child had a hairline fracture prior to the body’s interment. She argued that it is the responsibility of the state to preserve evidence despite the verdict given. The court in responding to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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