In In October 2009 a group of men in their 20s got together at TB’s apartment in Lowell for some beer and weed. One of the members of the group, AH, knew of two drug dealers in Lowell and thought that an invasion of the drug dealers’ home would yield both drugs and money. AH recruited two other men to break in with him. A fourth man, JS, was recruited to drive the group to and from the drug dealers’ home. TB, who’s apartment they were all in donated several black hoodies to the enterprise and he donated a handgun. AH already had a handgun. With JS dtriving, AH and the two other men went to the area of the drug dealers’ home. JS parked and stayed in the car. AH and the other two men left the car and went to the home of the two drug dealers. AH entered the house and a fight broke out. AH shot and killed both drug dealers. with his gun. It was never established whether or not the other two men went in. AH and the other two men ran back to JS’s car and all four men returned to TB’s apartment. They got no drugs and no money yet all four were potentially on the hook for two murders. Under Massachusetts Law, broadly speaking, everyone who participates in the home invasion – including the driver of the car (JS) and the supplier of the hoodies and a gun (TB) is guilty of first degree murder and subject to a life sentence without parole. The evidence against AH (the shooter) was strong. The evidence against TB (the supplier of the hoodies and the gun) and JS (the driver) was medium to strong. The case against the other two men was weak to medium. All five men were indicted for two counts of first degree murder and a number of other charges. JS had a chance very early on – before he was charged – to cut a deal with the government and avoid the murder charge. His lawyer, from Lowell, let too much time go by and the state indicted JS for two counts of first degree murder and the home invasion. When the reality of the situation began to set in JS realized that he – at the age of 23 – could spend the rest of his life in prison and never see the outside of a prison cell again. JS’s family sought out a lawyer for JS and ultimately hired Attorney Robert Lewin.
Attorney Lewin reviewed all the evidence in the case and concluded that if JS went to trial there was a strong likelihood that he would be convicted of first degree murder and spend the rest of his life in prison. At first JS did not want to testify against the other defendants. JS’s family did not want him to testify against the other defendants. Attorney Lewin began the long and difficult process of explaining to JS and his family that even though he did not have a gun and he did not go in the apartment and he did not shoot anybody, he could nevertheless be found guilty of first degree murder and spend the rest of his natural life in prison. This can be a difficult concept to understand but it is the law. Attorney Lewin began a negotiation with the DA’s Office. The DA offered to reduce the murder charges to manslaughter, but the DA wanted a 12 to15 year sentence and JS would have to testify against the other Defendants. JS and his family and Attorney Lewin all agreed that the 12 to15 year sentence was too long, particularly if JS was going to testify.
The negotiations went on for over six months when finally an agreement was reached. JS would testify against the other Defendants and JS would plead guilty to two counts of manslaughter and receive a 7 year to 7 years and 1 day sentence. The trials of the other Defendants were separated. AH, the shooter, was convicted of two counts of first degree murder, and was sentenced to two life sentences without parole. He will never be free again. The other two men against whom the evidence was weak were both found not guilty and after spending three years in prison were released. They both dodged a huge bullet. Incredibly within two months both men were arrested for new crimes and are back in jail awaiting trial in the new cases.
That leaves TB, the young man who furnished the hoodies and a gun. He was the last to go to trial. The DA’s Office offered him the same deal that they offered JS, except he would not have to testify against anyone (as the trials were all finished). He had already been in jail for almost four years; he was offered a 7 year sentence. If he pleaded guilty to manslaughter he would have had another three years to serve, but with good time he would have been out in a little over two years. His lawyer and the DA wanted him to plead. His lawyer spent hours with TB in the jail and with TB’s family trying to convince him to take the plea. He refused and went to trial. TB’s trial lasted one week. The jury deliberated for 1 hour and 20 minutes and found him guilty of both counts of first degree murder and he was sentenced to two life sentences. He could have been out in a little over two years; instead he will never be free again.
JS, having testified in two trials, got his deal and in June 2013 was sentenced to 7 years in State Prison. He has already been in for almost four years and with good time he will finish his sentence and be out in a little over two years.
In a murder case it is very important to know when to hold them and when to fold them.The stakes are so very high. Fortunately, JS and his family had the sense to see the handwriting on the wall. Attorney Lewin brings 42 years of experience as a criminal lawyer and he has a very strong relationship with the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office. He was able to negotiate a plea in a first degree murder case that avoided a life sentence and ended up with the charges being reduced to manslaughter and a sentence of 7 years being imposed.