STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - TUESDAY, AUG. 19, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

SJC OVERTURNS MURDER COUNT BASED ON HINES'S JURY INSTRUCTIONS

Finding fault with jury instructions given by Geraldine Hines, who is now a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, the SJC on Tuesday vacated a first degree murder conviction from a 2009 slaying, giving prosecutors the option to try the case again or allow a second degree murder conviction to stand. Over less than two years, Hines rose from the Superior Court bench - which handles major felonies and civil cases - to the Appeals Court and finally the SJC this summer. Earlier this year the court heard arguments in the case of Mario Gonzalez, who stabbed his girlfriend Luz Forty in a Dorchester apartment after spending Valentine's Day with her and her mother at a Dorchester bar. With Hines as the presiding judge, a jury convicted Gonzalez on July 30, 2010. After stabbing his girlfriend, Gonzalez called police and reported he had come home to find his wife stabbed and bleeding. In an opinion written by Ralph Gants, who is now the chief justice of the court but was an associate justice during the April oral arguments, the court found Hines had not instructed the jury to take into account Gonzalez's level of intoxication when determining whether "extreme atrocity or cruelty" was part of the crime, which would raise it from second degree to first degree murder. "The absence of such an instruction was error," Gants wrote. The SJC found the couple had prior disagreements about Gonzalez's alcohol consumption before, and while at the bar on Valentine's Day "the victim had a few drinks and the defendant drank steadily.


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" According to the SJC, Suffolk County prosecutors relied on the victim's suffering and the several stab wounds to prove extreme atrocity or cruelty had been committed. According to the statute, murder can rise to the level of first degree otherwise if there was "deliberately premeditated malice aforethought," or if the killing occurred as part of the commission of a major felony. - A. Metzger/SHNS

SUFFOLK POLLING FORMS PARTNERSHIP WITH USA TODAY

Suffolk University's polling unit has formed a new partnership with USA Today to survey key U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races around the country ahead of the November mid-term elections. The Suffolk University Political Research Center, which has a media partnership with the Boston Herald for Massachusetts polling, announced Tuesday that it would provide polling service on statewide issues and their impact on U.S. Senate and governor's races for the national newspaper and the USA Today National News Network's 81 local newspapers and 46 owned or serviced TV stations. "The findings will provide insights in an election in which control of the Senate is at stake. USA TODAY uses polling to stay in touch with Americans' views and give the public a platform to voice their opinions about the most important issues facing the country - on jobs, the economy and foreign affairs. We think it's important to recognize and explore the diversity of public opinion in the United States and welcome the opportunity to maximize the political expertise and analysis behind such polling with the Suffolk University Political Research Center as our partner," USA Today Publisher Larry Kramer said in a statement. Pollster David Paleologos directs the Suffolk polling center, and polls will be made publicly available following publication in USA Today media properties. - M. Murphy/SHNS

DEM CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR ATTEND FORUM TONIGHT

The three Democrats running for governor will face off on Tuesday night at a Stonehill College forum. Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman and pediatrician Don Berwick are expected to attend the forum, which will be moderated by MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, a Bay State native. The hour-long forum starts at 7 p.m. and includes WCVB's Janet Wu, MetroWest Daily News's Rick Holmes, and the Patriot Ledger's Christopher Burrell as panelists. Located in the college's Shields Science Center and hosted by the Martin Institute for Law and Society, the forum will be live-streamed on Stonehill College's website. The college has also scheduled forums for candidates for attorney general and treasurer on Aug. 28 and lieutenant governor candidates on Sept. 2. The primary is scheduled for Sept. 9. - G. Dumcius/SHNS