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William J. Barabino

William Barabino’s Legal Cases

1 total

  • Commonwealth v. Valerio DiGiambattista

    Practice Area:
    Criminal defense
    Jan 01, 2004
    Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruled for Defendant
    The defendant, Valerio DiGiambattista, was convicted of burning a dwelling house (G. L. c. 266, § 1). That conviction rested, in large measure, on DiGiambattista's confession to the police during an unrecorded interrogation at a fire station. It is undisputed that, in an effort to obtain his confession, the interrogating officers resorted to trickery, falsely suggesting to DiGiambattista that his presence at the scene of the fire had been captured on videotape, while simultaneously expressing sympathy for his actions and opining that he needed counselling for his alcoholism. In his subsequent confession, DiGiambattista's version of how and where he started the fire was completely contrary to the forensic evidence, and other details of his confession were ultimately shown to be impossible. On appeal, DiGiambattista contends that his motion to suppress the confession should have been allowed, and that, even with the introduction of the confession, the evidence against him was insufficient because the Commonwealth failed to present 425*425 evidence corroborating that confession. See Commonwealth v. Forde, 392 Mass. 453, 458 (1984) (Forde). After remanding the case to the motion judge for further findings concerning the motion to suppress, the Appeals Court affirmed the conviction. Commonwealth v. DiGiambattista, 59 Mass. App. Ct. 190, 191, 199 (2003). We granted the defendant's application for further appellate review, and we invited the filing of amicus briefs addressing whether we should expand the Forde corroboration rule and whether we should require electronic recording of custodial interrogations. For the following reasons, we conclude that the defendant's confession should have been suppressed, and we therefore reverse the defendant's conviction and remand the case for further proceedings. We also take this occasion to announce that, henceforth, the admission in evidence of any confession or statement of the defendant that is the product of an unrecorded custodial interrogation, or an unrecorded interrogation conducted at a place of detention, will entitle the defendant, on request, to a jury instruction concerning the need to evaluate that alleged statement or confession with particular caution