Court upholds conviction for 2005 slashing murder

The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Michael Hart, 53, for killing a woman who confronted him after he'd slashed his ex-girlfriend's throat and then stabbed her on her Millet Street front porch in 2005.

Michael Hart was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Beother Billingslea, 67, and to 10 years for the attack on his ex-girlfriend, Tangela Gibson, on April 30, 2005.

The state's highest court ruled that while a subpoena from the Suffolk County District Attorney's office for recordings of phone calls Hart made to his sister from jail while awaiting trial were not served properly, it didn't matter: "Given the compelling weight of [ex-girlfriend] Gibson's excited utterances identifying the defendant as her assailant, the forensic evidence of Gibson's blood on the defendant's shoe, and the apparent bias of the defendant's alibi witnesses, we are confident that the jailhouse telephone calls did not affect the trial's outcome."

The court also rejected Hart's argument that prosecutors unfairly biased the jury against him by raising the issue at closing of why his two alibi witnesses - his nephew and a friend of his mother's - refused repeated requests by police before the trial to talk to them.

The ruling describes a dysfunctional, drug-fueled relationship that Gibson finally told Hart was done on April 29 because she was tired of him beating her.

The next night, the ruling says, Gibson, Billingslea and two others were drinking and smoking crack at the Millett Street triple decker when Gibson "went downstairs to make a telephone call to buy more drugs," and encountered Hart standing on the porch. He drew a knife and slashed her from just below one ear to the middle of her throat. She collapsed and then he stabbed her "in the lower part of her rib cage, her abdomen, and the back of her left thigh." At that point, Billingslea came out, let Gibson in and confronted Hart, who then stabbed her to death as Gibson crawled upstairs.

Read the complete ruling.