The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld David Copeland's first-degree murder conviction for killing John Marshall in a parking lot on Dale Street in Roxbury on July 29, 2008.
The ruling means Copeland will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In his appeal, Copeland said a Suffolk County prosecutor failed to prove that he went out after a crack binge lasting more than a day to find more crack and that, without any money, he intended to rob Marshall of the crack he had for sale and instead wound up stabbing him in the heart first before taking his crack.
The state's highest court ruled the prosecutor laid out a case that would lead "a rational jury" to a guilty verdict and that while the prosecutor said something he shouldn't have about one witness, it was a minor mistake that made no difference.
From the evidence presented during the Commonwealth's case-in-chief, a rational jury could infer that the defendant intended to and did steal from the victim on July 29, and that he did so using a knife to stab the victim. The defendant, apparently armed with a knife, left the Regent Street apartment to meet somebody after he and his companions had run out of money and cocaine. He later returned to the apartment with money and cocaine that had blood on them. Upon his return, the defendant said that he "got someone" and that he "took care of business." ...
In addition, there was compelling circumstantial evidence that the victim possessed drugs on July 29. He had been selling drugs that day, he kept drugs in his vehicle, crack cocaine was found in his vehicle after he died, and he had been using marijuana at some point before being killed. There also was abundant evidence connecting the defendant with the crime scene. A hat the defendant had worn was found in the victim's vehicle; the defendant was wearing a white T-shirt when he left the apartment, a witness saw a man with a white shirt leaving the Dale Street parking lot after a fight with the victim, and the same witness saw blood on the ground near the victim; the defendant was observed by a police officer near the crime scene, sweaty and bloody and holding a white T-shirt, around the time that the crime was reported; and surveillance footage showed the defendant near the Dale Street parking lot on the day of the killing. The victim's blood was found on the defendant's body after his arrest, and a knife with the victim's blood on it that could have been used to inflict the victim's fatal wound was found wrapped in a white T-shirt in the apartment to which the defendant returned on July 29.