Victim: Beth Brodie, 15
Age at time of murder: 16
Crime location: Groveland
Crime date: November 18, 1992
Weapon: Baseball bat
Murder method: Beating
Murder motivation: Beth did not want to date him
Convictions: First-degree murder
Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP) later reduced to 15-life
Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Old Colony Correctional Center
Baldwin beat Beth to death with a baseball bat because she refused to date him. He was convicted of murdering the highschool cheerleader and was sentenced to LWOP. His sentence was reduced to 15-life after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that juvenile LWOP was unconstitutional. The murderer canceled his 2019 parole hearing and remains incarcerated.
Richard Baldwin beat Beth Brodie, 15, to death with a baseball bat when he was 16. Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled juveniles could not be sentenced to life without parole, vacating Baldwin’s sentence.
BY STEPHEN REX BROWN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
THURSDAY, JANUARY 2, 2014, 1:16 PM
Beth Brodie’s killer was sentenced to life without parole — until a new ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared the sentence unconstitutional.
A Massachusetts woman is outraged that a new state law could put her sister’s killer on the streets again.
Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juveniles to life without parole is unconstitutional.
That meant Richard Baldwin, who was convicted of killing Beth Brodie with a baseball bat when he was only 16, can now be paroled.
“I feel betrayed by the justice system. Let down. I’m very angry,” said Dawn Santino, who was also 16 when Baldwin killed her 15-year-old sister.
“How can they let someone potentially walk the streets who committed such a heinous crime?”
COURTESY OF DAWN SANTINO
Beth Brodie, 15, was beaten to death by Richard Baldwin when he was 16.
Baldwin launched his brutal attack on Beth, a high school cheerleader in Groveland, Mass., on Nov. 18, 1992, because she refused to date him.
Santino, now 37, and , told the Daily News on Thursday that her family never expected to see Beth’s killer free again — until they read over the weekend that the state Supreme Court ruling wiped away nine life sentences, including Baldwin’s. They first shared their angst with MyFoxBoston.
“He’s a horrible person who doesn’t deserve any thought,” said Santino, who added that she now thinks about Baldwin “every second of the day.”
She said that she does not agree with the spirit of the court’s decision.
“How do you rehabilitate someone who has been in prison for 21 years surrounded by other awful criminals?” she asked.
“I was 16 at the time (Baldwin killed Brodie). He was a classmate. I knew right from wrong. I didn’t do anything like that.”
She said the family was waiting until to hear from prosecutors about a possible parole hearing.
The Brodies may also meet with the families of other victims affected by the ruling.
“This is not OK. We’re going to fight this,” Santino said.
On April 4, 1994, a jury found the defendant, Richard C. Baldwin, guilty of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. Before trial, Baldwin notified the Commonwealth of his inten-tion to assert a defense of “diminished capacity.” [Note 1] A judge in the Superior Court granted the Commonwealth’s motion for a psychiatric examination of the defendant. He denied Baldwin’s request to condition that examination on having the interview recorded or permitting Baldwin’s defense counsel to be present during the interview. Baldwin’s principal contention on appeal is that the judge’s denial of that request violated his rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution and art. 12 of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution. We conclude that the conviction should be affirmed, and that the defendant is not entitled to relief pursuant to G. L. c. 278, s. 33E.
1. According to testimony at the trial, the victim was killed on November 18, 1992. That day, Baldwin spoke several times on the telephone with a friend, Skye Albert-Hall (Hall), and told Hall in their last conversation that he wanted to die because the victim, a mutual friend, did not want to resume a dating relationship with him. At approximately 4:30 P.M. that afternoon, Baldwin arrived at Hall’s home in Groveland. At Baldwin’s insistence, Hall went to the victim’s house, a short distance away, and persuaded the victim to return to Hall’s house with him.
Hall retired upstairs, while the victim and Baldwin talked downstairs. The victim went upstairs twice and the second time told Hall that Baldwin had said he was going to kill her. Baldwin followed the victim into Hall’s room upstairs, carrying a metal baseball bat. As he approached the victim, Baldwin asked her several times if she was scared, and then swung the bat at her. She deflected the first blow, falling down. Hall attempted to grab the bat away from Baldwin, but Baldwin pushed him away. Baldwin then swung the bat twice more, hitting the victim in the head, causing fatal skull fractures. At the time of her death, the victim was fifteen years old and Baldwin was sixteen years old.
Following the fatal attack, Baldwin left Hall’s house and later appeared at the Pentucket Regional High School. He asked for an ambulance because he had swallowed “some pills” and had drunk “some wine.” He admitted to the principal and a teacher that he had killed the victim. Baldwin was arrested, charged, and then transported to Hale Hospital in Haverhill. His diagnosis there was a life-threatening ingestion of alcohol, Xanax, and Ibuprofen. While he was hospitalized, he admitted killing the victim to a nurse. Police officers on guard in the hospital room overheard Baldwin speak of the killing to his mother and to his father.
2. Baldwin was charged in the juvenile session of the Haverhill District Court with being a delinquent child by reason of murder. A transfer hearing was held and on July 7, 1993, the judge in that court ordered the juvenile complaint dismissed and the defendant bound over to the Essex County grand jury. On July 14, 1993, an Essex County grand jury returned an indictment charging murder against Baldwin and thereafter he was arraigned in the Superior Court. On December 23, 1993, Baldwin filed a notice regarding “diminished capacity,” [Note 2] pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 14 (b) (2) (A), 378 Mass. 874 (1978), stating “his intent to rely on expert testimony in connection with issues of premeditation, specific intent and malice,” and that each such witness would rely in part on statements made by Baldwin. The Commonwealth responded by filing a motion for a psychiatric examination of Baldwin, pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 14 (b) (2) (B), 378 Mass. 824 (1979). The judge allowed the psychiatric examination over Baldwin’s objection, and refused Baldwin’s request to condition the examination on having the interview either recorded on audiotape or attended by Baldwin’s counsel.
Baldwin then filed a petition for a protective order pursuant to G. L. c. 211, s. 3, which was denied by a single justice of this court. A motion for reconsideration in the Superior Court of the refusal to place conditions on the psychiatric evaluation of Baldwin was also denied.
The evaluation of Baldwin took place on February 24, 1994. In an affidavit later filed in the Superior Court in connection with a motion to suppress the testimony of the Commonwealth’s psychiatrist, Baldwin stated that he had answered the psychiatrist’s questions in the belief that if he remained silent, he would not be allowed to present his defense at trial. The Superior Court judge declined to take any action on Baldwin’s motion to suppress because, he said, his earlier order regarding the psychiatric examination “was the subject of a petition to and a ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court.”
At trial, in pursuing his defense of mental incapacity, Baldwin called two expert witnesses. The first, a psychiatrist, testified that Baldwin came from a highly dysfunctional family, marked by alcohol abuse and by verbal and physical aggression between his estranged parents and later between him and his father. The expert diagnosed Baldwin as suffering from a major depression episode on the day of the killing. He stated his opinion that depression and repressed aggression prevented Baldwin from conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law and from rationally premeditating the killing, and a dissociate reaction prevented him from forming the requisite intent for murder. Baldwin’s second expert witness, a clinical psychologist and consultant to the Department of Youth Services (department), testified that Baldwin suffered from a major depressive episode on the day of the killing, and concurred with the first expert in evaluating Baldwin’s criminal responsibility and abilities to premeditate and form a specific intent to kill. In addition, the second expert testified that Baldwin was incapable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his conduct.
As a rebuttal witness, the Commonwealth called the forensic psychiatrist who had examined Baldwin. He testified that he found no signs of mental illness in Baldwin at the interview or in records relative to his behavior just after the crime, as reported by Baldwin, Hale Hospital, or the department. He concluded that Baldwin did not suffer a mental disease or defect such that he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the law, nor from a psychological disorder that would have disrupted his ability deliberately to premeditate murder or that prevented him from forming a specific intent to kill.
Baldwin’s attorney vigorously cross-examined the Commonwealth’s expert on his opinion, in light of Baldwin’s experts’ contrary opinions, as to Baldwin’s mental health. Defense counsel also attempted to show in cross-examination bias stemming from the expert’s history of testifying often in favor of the prosecution and against criminal defendants on the issue of criminal responsibility. Defense counsel also reviewed the notes taken by the psychiatrist from the interview with Baldwin, noted that the notes were sparse, and cross-examined the expert about those that implied interpretations inconsistent with the expert’s conclusions as to Baldwin’s mental conditions.
3. A court-ordered psychiatric examination of a criminal defendant implicates the defendant’s constitutional right against compelled self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment and by art. 12. We have observed that full cooperation by a defendant with a psychiatrist, who is an agent of the prosecution, may result in confession of the acts charged, probative admissions, leads to the discovery of other inculpatory evidence, information with which to impeach a defendant, and evidence as to a defendant’s mental capacity. Blaisdell v. Commonwealth, 372 Mass. 753 , 760 (1977). Only a constitutionally adequate grant of immunity or a valid waiver of the privilege by the person who possesses it suffices to overcome invocation of the privilege in a court-ordered examination. Id. at 761.
Rule 14 provides for certain procedures to protect the privilege, while allowing the prosecution to conduct a psychiatric examination in advance of trial, in cases where, as here, the defendant has given notice that he may assert a lack of criminal responsibility because of mental disease or defect and that he will introduce expert testimony that relies on his statements. A report of the examination is sealed and submitted to the judge and may be released in three circumstances: (a) if the judge determines that it contains no privileged information, (b) on the defendant’s motion that it be made available to the parties, or (c) if the defendant testifies on his own behalf or offers expert testimony based in whole or in part on his statements as to his mental condition at the time of, or as to his criminal responsibility for, the alleged crime. Mass. R. Crim. P. 14 (b) (2) (B) (iii). [Note 3] These procedures are intended to guarantee that privileged information is safeguarded until such time as a defendant voluntarily waives his privilege. Blaisdell, supra at 764. A defendant who chooses to testify at trial or to proffer expert witness opinion based on his out-of-court statements as to his criminal responsibility waives his privilege and opens to the Commonwealth the opportunity to rebut such testimonial evidence. Id. at 766. Commonwealth v. Harvey, 397 Mass. 803 , 808 (1986).
On appeal, Baldwin claims no violation of these rule 14 procedures. Nor does he claim that privileged information from the court-ordered psychiatric examination was used at trial in any way other than to rebut expert testimony, based on Baldwin’s out-of-court statements, which denied his criminal responsibility. He claims only that he should be entitled to condition his cooperation with a court-ordered examination (and subsequent waiver of his privilege at trial) on either a recording of the psychiatric interview or having his counsel present. He claims that the judge’s refusal to grant such a protective order denies him not only his privilege against compelled self-incrimination, but also his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
We have affirmed a judge’s discretion to allow a defendant intending to interpose an insanity or lack of criminal responsibility defense to videotape a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. Commonwealth v. Delaney, 404 Mass. 1004 , 1005 (1989). We have also upheld a judge’s discretion to deny a request that counsel be present at a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. Commonwealth v. Trapp, 423 Mass. 356 , 359 (1996). In Trapp, we concluded that the decision to undergo psychiatric evaluation is a critical stage of the criminal process, entitling a defendant to assistance of counsel, but that the psychiatric interview itself is not a critical stage. Thus, absent a claim that the judge abused his discretion in the circumstances of this case, a claim not made by Baldwin, Baldwin’s Sixth Amendment claim of denial of assistance of counsel fails. We also commented in Trapp that “[t]he alternative of videotaping such interviews was not raised at trial. While we agree with the Byers plurality that videotaping might be a sound idea, this issue is not before us.” Id., citing United States v. Byers, 740 F.2d 1104 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (en banc) (plurality opinion) (denying appeal of request for tape recording or counsel presence at court-ordered psychiatric examination based on Fifth and Sixth Amendment protections). Baldwin’s appeal now raises that issue. [Note 4]
In our cases concerning the recording of custodial interrogations at police stations, we have declined to say that the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights or the United States Constitution requires electronic recording of such interrogations, nor were we inclined to create such a common law rule. See Commonwealth v. Diaz, 422 Mass. 269 , 273 (1996); Commonwealth v. Fryar, 414 Mass. 732 , 742 n.8 (1993), S.C., 425 Mass. 237 (1997). We recognized the merits of recording such interrogations, Diaz, supra at 272-273, and that electronic recordings would be a “helpful tool in evaluating the voluntariness of confessions.” Fryar, supra. Our language in those cases echoes our language in Trapp, supra at 359, that videotaping “might be a sound idea.” Our acknowledgment, however, of the advantages in many circumstances to recording either interrogations by police or interviews by psychiatrists does not lead us to announce a categorical rule on electronic recording in either context.
The court in Byers observed that while a “good idea,” the recording of psychiatric interviews had not been embodied in the Constitution in general or the Sixth Amendment in particular, which provide the minima of criminal process under the Federal Constitution. Byers, supra at 1121. A crucial piece of evidence in that case was a statement by the defendant in the psychiatric interview that only after commission of the crime had his wife suggested to him and had he adopted as his own belief that he could have been under the influence of “magic, spells or some influence of roots.” Id. at 1108. That statement was “very devastating” to the defendant’s defense that he was insane at the time of the crime. Id. The court nonetheless observed that the defendant had the opportunity, in cross-examining the prosecution’s psychiatric expert, to contest the accuracy of both details of and conclusion from the interview, to point out the absence in the psychiatrist’s written report of the critical statement attributed to the defendant, to introduce other witnesses to show that the statement attributed to him was not true, and to introduce contrary conclusions of other psychiatrists. Id. at 1121.
In the case before us, unlike the Byers case, neither side disputes what Baldwin said in the psychiatric examination. While Baldwin does claim that the Commonwealth’s expert was biased, he does not claim that the expert fabricated any evidence. Nor does Baldwin argue to us that statements in the interview disclosed at trial by the Commonwealth’s expert were critical pieces of evidence, unavailable from any other source, which inculpate him in the commission of the crime or that prove the Commonwealth’s case that Baldwin had the requisite mens rea or mental capacity for his alleged acts. [Note 5] Baldwin claims rather that the bias of the Commonwealth’s psychiatrist led him to misinterpret Baldwin’s statements and that the expert’s characterization of Baldwin’s statements could not be tested for reliability because no tape recording was permitted. The answer to that is vigorous cross-examination of the Commonwealth’s expert and rebuttal with other expert witness testimony, not a new rule that examination by the Commonwealth’s psychiatrist must be recorded in all circumstances.
Baldwin’s defense counsel did attempt to cross-examine the Commonwealth’s psychiatric expert regarding the expert’s own opposition to a tape recording or defense counsel’s attendance at the expert’s interview of Baldwin. The Commonwealth objected to this line of questioning, and the judge sustained the objection, foreclosing any discussion at all on that issue, because, the judge stated, this court already had determined that the examination would be made without the presence of defense counsel or a tape recorder. In fact, the order of the single justice reflects that he had declined to interfere with the trial judge’s discretion in denying the requested protective order and therefore denied relief under G. L. c. 211, s. 3. The single justice had neither ordered, approved, or disapproved of conditioning Baldwin’s examination on its being tape recorded or attended by defense counsel. Defense counsel’s purpose for this line of questioning was not to engage the expert in the legal issue that is the subject of this appeal, but rather to elicit evidence of the expert’s own reluctance to be monitored and thereby to cast doubt on the expert’s credibility. The judge’s ruling foreclosing that inquiry by the defendant was error. Even though we have declined to adopt a rule requiring tape recordings of custodial interrogations by police, we have said that counsel is entitled at trial to pursue the failure of police to record a defendant’s statements and may argue to a fact finder that the absence of a recording casts doubt on the voluntariness of the defendant’s statements in custody. Diaz, supra at 273. As in that context, so too here, we think that wide-ranging cross-examination, including inquiry as to why an accurate record was not made of a psychiatric interview, is the appropriate antidote to potential overreaching, bias, or mischaracterization of evidence by an agent of the State. In light, however, of the vigorous cross-examination that defense counsel did conduct of the Commonwealth’s expert, together with the extensive testimony of the defendant’s own experts, we conclude the judge’s ruling was not reversible error. We are confident in light of the entire record that the error did not influence the jury. See Commonwealth v. Federico, 425 Mass. 844 , 852 (1997); Commonwealth v. Flebotte, 417 Mass. 348 , 353 (1994).
We hold that it is within the judge’s discretion to require an electronic recording of the Blaisdell interview or to permit counsel to be present at the interview. Even if the examination of a defendant by a psychiatrist retained by the Commonwealth is not recorded, the judge may nevertheless exclude all or a portion of the expert’s testimony if it is found to be unreliable.
4. We have reviewed the entire record pursuant to G. L. c. 278, s. 33E, and find no additional reason to exercise our power either to reduce the murder verdict or order a new trial. Accordingly, we affirm Baldwin’s conviction.
Bob Ward, Boston 25 News
Updated: March 22, 2019
The man convicted in the brutal 1992 killing of a Groveland teenager has canceled his scheduled parole hearing.
Richard Baldwin was sentenced to life no-parole in 1994 for killing his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend Beth Brodie with a baseball bat.
Recently, the SJC ruled life sentences without the possibility of parole unconstitutional when it comes to teen killers due to the development of the teenage brain.
Baldwin had a parole hearing scheduled for April 30, but Brodie’s family told Boston 25 News’ Bob Ward that Baldwin canceled his own parole hearing.
Sean Alyward said he’s relieved that Baldwin cancelled his own parole hearing. He believes the renewed attention pressured Baldwin to cancel.
There’s barely a day that goes by, that Sean Aylward doesn’t think about his sister Beth. He even keeps an empty chair for Beth near the kitchen table.
“He was sentenced to life, we didn’t have to think about him at all,” Alyward said. “He didn’t deserve any of our thoughts and he still doesn’t deserve our thoughts.”
This week, Ward interviewed a man who was on the jury that convicted Baldwin in 1994.
“We were comfortable with the decision we made, putting him away for life with no parole. It was the only thing we could arrive at considering the facts,” said Kerry Bertrand.
Those facts included how Brodie was beaten to death with a baseball bat, something that still haunts Bertrand.
“He said to Beth Brodie, ‘Do you want to turn around for this?’ and she’s like, ‘For what?’ He pulls out the bat and takes a full cut, right into her face. How do you do that? And she goes down and he hits her again,” Bertrand said.
“That was brutal, that was just outrageous. And someone like that does not belong on the streets.”
Brodie’s family has been fighting to keep her killer behind bars, even petitioning for change at the State House.
Right now, it’s unclear why Baldwin canceled the hearing.
Bob Ward, Boston 25 News
Updated: March 20, 2019
BOSTON — Nearly 27 years later, the man convicted of brutally killing a Groveland teenager is getting a parole hearing.
Richard Baldwin was 16 years old when police say he killed his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend, Beth Brodie. He was sentenced to life no-parole, but because of a change in the law, he is now getting a chance at freedom.
Kerry Bertrand, a man who was on the jury for Baldwin’s 1994 trial, tells Boston 25 News he does not want Baldwin free.
“Outrage is what I feel. Outrage,” he said.
“We were comfortable with the decision we made, putting him away for life with no parole. It was the only thing we could arrive at considering the facts,” said Bertrand.
But in recent years, citing research about the development of the teenage brain, the SJC ruled life sentences without the possibility of parole is unconsitutional when it comes to teen killers.
Bertrand told Boston 25 News the facts of Beth Brodie’s murder still haunt him.
“He brought the bat out. He asked Beth to her face: ‘do you want to turn around for this?’ And he just took a full swing right into her face. We had to look at pictures,” he said.
Bertrand says most of the jurors wanted to convict Baldwin immediately when they got back to the jury room, but he says two women on the jury wanted to take another look. They wanted to see if the system failed Richard Baldwin.
“This wasn’t like an impulse thing, spur of the moment, this was thought out, it was premeditated,” said Bertrand.
He has even written to the parole board urging it to keep Baldwin in prison.
“From the evidence I saw, I don’t want him out on the street. It’s not right. It’s not fair. I think people would be in danger,” he said.
In an interview last week, Beth Brodie’s brother Sean Alyward said the family was “dealt a broken promise.”
“He was sentenced to life, we didn’t have to think about him at all. He didn’t deserve any of our thoughts and still doesn’t deserve our thoughts. But here we are, ready to face parole and he thinks for some reason he should walk free,” said Alyward.
Brodie’s family is committed to trying to keep her killer behind bars.
Baldwin’s parole hearing is scheduled for April 30.
Some of the 63 convicted teen killers in Massachusetts who were originally given life without parole sentences have since won their freedom through.