COMMONWEALTH v. Marc J. SCHIRAGA.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER PURSUANT TO RULE 23.0
Following a jury-waived trial, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery on a police officer, attempting to disarm a police officer when she was engaged in the performance of her duties, unarmed robbery,2 intimidation of a witness, threatening to commit a crime, and disturbing the peace. On appeal, the defendant contends that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that the defendant was criminally responsible. We affirm.
“Where a defendant asserts a defense of lack of criminal responsibility and there is evidence at trial that, viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant, would permit a reasonable finder of fact to have a reasonable doubt whether the defendant was criminally responsible at the time of the offense, the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was criminally responsible.” Commonwealth v. Lawson, 475 Mass. 806, 811 (2016), citing Commonwealth v. Keita, 429 Mass. 843, 849-850 (1999). “To meet this burden, the Commonwealth [must] show beyond a reasonable doubt either that [the defendant] had no mental disease or defect or that he had the substantial capacity both to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct and to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.” Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, 431 Mass. 506, 508 (2000), citing Commonwealth v. Goudreau, 422 Mass. 731, 735 (1996). Put another way, “the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is sane.” Commonwealth v. Kappler, 416 Mass. 574, 578 (1993).
When deciding whether the defendant is criminally responsible, the trier of fact is not required to accept the “uncontroverted testimony of experts.” Kappler, 416 Mass. at 579. Rather, the trier of fact may consider the defendant's “conduct before, during, and after the crime ․ ‘in reaching their conclusion on the sanity issue,’ ” and may infer the defendant's mental competency from such conduct. Commonwealth v. Lunde, 390 Mass. 42, 48 (1983), quoting Commonwealth v. Walker, 370 Mass. 548, 581, cert. denied, 429 U.S. 943 (1976).
Contrary to the defendant's assertion, there was sufficient evidence in the record to support a finding that the defendant was criminally responsible. The arresting officer testified that when he questioned the defendant after an altercation in a parking lot, the defendant appeared normal. Additionally, the defendant initially lied about being present at the scene of the altercation and, when asked about his motivation for lying, the defendant stated that he did not want to get into trouble. Later, during the booking process at the police station, the defendant again appeared normal, was respectful, and was able to respond to all of the arresting officer's questions. Similarly, the defendant's outbursts in the hospital occurred after periods when the defendant was relatively calm, and were in response to the defendant becoming angry. The defendant's expert corroborated this testimony, stating that, while at the hospital, the defendant felt the arresting officer was rude to him, and that the defendant was angry that he was in custody.
Though the defendant urges us to credit the testimony of his expert as conclusive evidence that the defendant was not criminally responsible, we note that the triers of fact “are the ultimate judges of expert testimony and that such testimony is not conclusive.” Commonwealth v. Kostka, 370 Mass. 516, 536 (1976). While the defendant's expert testified that the defendant was not, in her opinion, criminally responsible at the time of the offenses, she also testified that the defendant acknowledged the wrongfulness of his conduct after the offenses.3
In light of the defendant's acknowledgement of the wrongfulness of his conduct, his demonstrated consciousness of guilt, and the infrequency and timing of his outbursts, there was sufficient evidence from which the trial judge could infer the defendant's mental competency and find that the defendant was criminally responsible for the crimes he committed. See, e.g., Lunde, 390 Mass. at 47-48. Though there was evidence that the defendant was experiencing a manic episode at some times, there was also evidence that he was not experiencing a manic episode at others, and criminal responsibility is ultimately a question for the trier of fact. See Kostka, 370 Mass. at 530-531. Most importantly, viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, there was sufficient evidence to support the trial judge's conclusion that the defendant was not criminally insane at the time he committed the charged offenses.
2. The conviction of unarmed robbery was later amended to a conviction of larceny from a person.
3. We note that the expert testified that the defendant's mental illness was episodic in natural, and that individuals suffering from such a mental illness are not always symptomatic.
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