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Commonwealth v. Cook

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Dennis Cook (Defendant), was tried before a jury on an indictment charging conspiracy to commit rape. The Defendant’s motion for a required finding of not guilty was filed and denied at the conclusion of the Plaintiff, the Commonwealth’s (Plaintiff), case. The Defendant was subsequently convicted and sentenced on the indictment. On appeal, the Defendant claims error in the denial of his motion for a required finding of not guilty.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The fact that a defendant may have aided and abetted a crime does not establish conspiracy, particularly where the evidence shows that prior planning was not an inherent facet of the crime. Furthermore, neither association with a criminal nor knowledge of an illegal activity constitute proof of participation in a conspiracy.

    Facts. On the evening of July 16, 1977, the victim, age sixteen, went to Chicopee to visit some friends. Upon discovering that her friends were not home, the victim went to the housing project where her boyfriend resided. As the victim was on her way to her boyfriend’s house, she passed by the project office. There, the Defendant and his brother, Maurice Cook (Mr. Cook), attempted to engage the victim in conversation. The victim went on her way, but later, discovered that her boyfriend was not home. As a result, the victim reversed her route, again running into the Defendant and Mr. Cook. This time, however, the victim accepted the brother’s offer to socialize. The victim spoke with the two men for approximately forty-five (45) minutes, during which time she had a drink of beer. Because the victim had trouble remembering the brother’s names, the Defendant showed the victim his plant identification card from Smith & Wesson. Mr. Cook showed the victim his driver’s license. At approxima
    tely 9:00 p.m., Mr. Cook indicated that he was out of cigarettes and suggested that the three take a walk to a nearby convenience store. Along the way, the group walked on a narrow path, through a heavily wooded area. As they were walking, the victim tripped and fell to the ground. While the victim was sitting on the ground, Mr. Cook jumped on her and forcibly raped her after giving his belt to the Defendant. The incident was reported to the police and the brothers were arrested. Mr. Cook was charged with rape and the Defendant was charged with conspiracy and as an accessory to the rape.

    Issue. Was it an error for the lower court to deny the Defendant’s motion for a required finding of not guilty as to the conspiracy charge?

    Held. The evidence introduced up to the time the Plaintiff rested was insufficient to warrant the Defendant’s conviction on the charge of conspiracy and, as a result, the judgment of the lower court must be reversed.

    Points of Law - for Law School Success

    The commission of a substantive offense and a conspiracy to commit it are separate and distinct offenses.

    View Full Point of Law
    Discussion. The court looked at the events that transpired immediately before the rape to determine that there was no conspiracy present. Rather, the court found that the meeting between the victim and the brothers was more consistent with a chance social encounter than a preconceived plan between the Defendant and Mr. Cook. First, there was no attempt by the brothers to conceal the fact that they were socializing with the victim. Further, the two brothers each showed the victim forms of identification. Furthermore, Mr. Cook, not the Defendant, suggested the reason for going to the convenience store, as well as the path chosen. Additionally, the path chosen provided a reasonably direct route to the convenience store. Finally, the victim fell to the ground by herself, without any provocation by either of the brothers. These facts, put together, point to the conclusion that there was no conspiracy to commit rape.


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