State Supreme Judicial Court denies new trial for Pittsfield man convicted of slashing a man's face with a box cutter

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BOSTON — A Pittsfield man, convicted in 2012 of slashing a man in the face with a boxccutter, will not get a new trial, according to the state's Supreme Judicial Court.

In 2015, Jeremy D. Gomes had appealed for a new trial following his conviction on charges of mayhem, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and breaking and entering into a vehicle in the nighttime for a felony and his sentence of up to 12 years in prison.

As a basis for that appeal, Gomes argued that he had asked Judge John Agostini, who presided over his trial, to provide a jury instruction regarding eyewitness testimony that New Jersey had adopted about one week before his own trial began.

Eyewitness identification was at issue in Gomes' trial.

The SJC ruled in that earlier motion that Agostini did not abuse his discretion by not including that instruction in place of the standard adopted jury instruction at use in Massachusetts at the time.

The SJC ruled Gomes did not furnish any "expert testimony, scholarly articles or treatises," that would have demonstrated the principles in those in instructions were so widely accepted that it would have been appropriate to base jury instructions upon them in his trial.

However, in the same opinion, the SJC concluded there was enough consensus regarding principles of eyewitness identification in the scientific community, the SJC proposed updating the former 1979 instruction from that point forward, and did not intend them to be applied retroactively.

Following that, Gomes moved again for a new trial, claiming he was deprived of effective counsel because the judge wasn't provided with the same information that convinced the SJC to propose the new jury instructions.

That motion was denied and then appealed to the SJC, which, this week, ruled against Gomes.

The SJC found that the decision to not submit that information and other evidence was not "unreasonable," and questioned whether it would have even been beneficial to the defense at trial.

"Although such evidence might have cast doubt on some of the eyewitnesses' testimony, it might also have bolstered the testimony of other eyewitnesses," part of the decision reads.

The SJC also found that just because defense counsel didn't convince a judge to adopt a jury instruction that differed from the adopted instruction, that attorney cannot have been found to have performed in a manner that would constitute ineffectiveness.

Jurors found that on Sept. 10, 2011, Gomes leaned into a car window and slashed the victim with a box cutter outside a Tyler Street convenience store without provocation. According to court testimony, Gomes had argued with the victim just before the slashing. The cut required 30 stitches.

Jurors deliberated for about 3 hours before delivering their verdict. Gomes was sentenced to eight to 12 years in prison.

Reach Bob Dunn at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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