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Court upholds life sentence for man who started gun battle on Geneva Avenue that ended with the death of a visiting Kentucky woman in 2007

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Manuel Andrade, now 47, deserves the sentence of life without possibility of parole he got for starting the shootout outside a Geneva Avenue house party that left a 22-year-old woman visiting from Kentucky dead of a gunshot wound to the head.

Andrade did not fire the shot that killed Chiara Levin, but he was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder because state law says people engaged in a shootout can be held responsible for the death of bystanders, like Levin.

According to the court's summary of the case, Levin, in Boston to visit an elderly relative, and two friends were leaving a Tremont Street club around 1:30 a.m. on March 24, 2007, when they met Andrade, his cousin and another man and agreed to accompany them to an after-hours party on Geneva Avenue.

About an hour after they arrived, in the cousin's Escalade, they were ready to leave and the cousin got ready to drive them to where they were staying. Andrade, a Roxbury resident, started heading out with them, but then returned to the house, where he had earlier uttered expletives towards the Dorchester men there. They started up again. Andrade threw a plate of food at one of the men, then took out a gun and began firing, hitting the man he'd just tossed the food at. As chaos erupted, and the shot man fled, Andrade pointed his gun at Casimiro Barros - who began to run at him.

The defendant walked quickly toward [his cousin] Tony's Escalade, looking behind him toward the house and smirking. [A witness] heard someone at the front of the house say, "Pop him," and screamed at the defendant to "watch his back."

Barros, who was being restrained, broke free and moved toward the defendant. By that point, the defendant was near Tony's vehicle. He got out his gun, and Barros did so as well. Both men opened fire. A bullet from the defendant's gun struck a nearby vehicle. Several of the bullets from Barros's gun hit Tony's vehicle; one of them traveled through the front passenger's side door as the defendant tried to flee, and struck him in the buttocks. Another bullet from Barros's gun went through the rear passenger's side window, which shattered, and then hit Levin in the head.

As Levin's friends yelled for Tony to drive Levin to the hospital, he sped away, with the defendant also in the vehicle. After about a minute, the defendant said that he had to get out. Tony stopped the vehicle, and the defendant and Ortiz left. Tony drove to a Boston hospital. On arrival, Levin was unconscious and unresponsive. After approximately two hours of effort, doctors determined that she was "brain dead" and there was nothing further they could do to assist her, so they terminated their efforts and she died.

In 2009, a Suffolk Superior Court jury convicted Barros of voluntary manslaughter and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. A judge sentenced him to 27 1/2 to 30 years in prison on the charges. In 2013, the Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld his convictions and sentence.

Andrade was tried separately, a couple of months after Barros. Another Suffolk Superior Court jury convicted him as well, but on a charge of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

In its ruling today, the state's highest court said that neither the judge nor prosecutors committed any grievous mistakes. The closest they came was at one point during jury selection, when Andrade's family was ushered out of the courtroom for some reason at one point, a potential violation of his constitutional rights. But the justices said Andrade and his lawyer knew about the incident at the time and did not object then.

And, the court said, even though Andrade did not himself shoot Levin, he warranted a first-degree charge because she might not have died had Andrade not started the shootout that led to her deadh:

Here, there was evidence that the defendant initiated the altercation inside the house, where he shot Barbosa, pointed his weapon at Barros, and walked outside; Barros followed. Once outside, the defendant exchanged fire with Barros. Guests at the party heard shots "from both sides", and shell casings recovered at the scene indicated that two weapons had been fired. The defendant and Barros were the only people seen holding firearms. This evidence "formed a mosaic of evidence such that the jury could conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt," that the defendant engaged in the shootout, and thus caused the death of Levin ... See Commonwealth v. Ayala, 481 Mass. 46, 53 (2018).

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