The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld Calvin Carnes's four consecutive life terms for killing the four men in a basement recording studio in 2005.
"We discern no reason to order a new trial or reduce the convictions of murder in the first degree to a lesser degree of guilt," the state's highest court concluded in its ruling.
Carnes was convicted in 2008 of repeatedly shooting Jason Bachiller, 20, Jihad Chankhour, 22, Edwin Duncan, 21, and Christopher Vieira, 19 in Duncan's recording-studio basement. An accomplice, Robert Turner, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Carnes's lawyer listed several reasons for the court to order a new trial for him, but chief among them was the claim his constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial was denied because the trial judge did not declare a mistrial during complicated jury deliberations that saw an increasingly frustrated jury tell the judge it could not reach a verdict.
The jury seemed to deadlock several times, the judge agreed to dismiss two jurors who had prior travel arrangements and to seat two alternates. The jury then reported it was deadlocked again, 11-1. When the judge learned from prosecutors that one juror had lied on her jury questionnaire (she did not disclose her ex-husband had a criminal record or that she had sought restraining orders against him), she dismissed that juror and appointed another alternate. The next day, the jury convicted Carnes of the four murders.
However, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected Carnes's argument that the judge should have declared a mistrial rather than continuing to allow the deliberations. The judge, the court ruled, was correct in determining the jury had not finished "due and thorough" deliberations at each point it sent a note to the judge or when the judge dismissed jurors because the case against Carnes involved 11 indictments, and more than 60 witnesses and 200 exhibits over a three-week trial, which is not something that can be easily sorted out quickly.
And the justices also rejected the argument that prosecutors had no business looking into the juror's lies once the deliberations began. The court said prosecutors learned "benignly" of the woman's lies - a victim witness advocate recognized her in the courtroom - and that the judge did nothing wrong in dismissing her. Still, because of this case, the justices said that in the future, prosecutors will have to get a judge's permission before looking into a juror's background once deliberations have begun.