JUVENILE LACK OF COGNITIVE CAPACITY TO PREMEDITATE MURDER

In Commonwealth v. Pagan, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judge’s reduction of the defendant’s conviction of first-degree murder to second-degree murder, pursuant to Mass. Rules of Criminal Procedure.   The defendant was accused of stabbing a man during a gathering of young men. The defendant was sixteen years old at the time. At trial, the evidence of deliberate premeditation was “thin” and there was evidence that supported the judge’s instruction on self-defense. In reducing the verdict, the judge considered those factors, as well as “the defendant’s youth, turbulent family background, and medical history,” including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and clinical depression. “Especially troubling to the judge was the fact that, at the time of the murder, the defendant’s ADHD was not being treated. The judge … credited the testimony of a forensic psychologist that the defendant lacked the cognitive capacity to premeditate the killing as a result of his untreated ADHD, inadequate adult supervision, and immature adolescent neurodevelopment.” The judge also noted that the defendant’s impulsiveness [suggestive of lack of deliberate premeditation] not only was affected by his ADHD, but also was exacerbated by his youth, familial neglect, and developmental immaturity.”

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