Family, State Trooper Testify in Hearing for Newton Teen Charged with Murder

The lawyers for Newton teen Benjamin Peirce are trying to suppress statements he made to police after an alleged shooting incident in Waltham.

Lawyers for continued a third day of questioning today in a hearing that they hope will convince a superior court judge to keep out certain evidence from their client's impending trial.

Benjamin Peirce, 18, appeared before Middlesex Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman again today for an evidentiary suppression hearing. An hour of testimony  

According to the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, Peirce's lawyers are looking to suppress details regarding statements Peirce made to police.

Peirce, along with fellow Newton teen Shaquan Jacobs and Roxbury resident Daniel Louis, is charged with murder, armed robbery, possession of a firearm, conspiracy to commit armed robbery (2 counts) and attempted armed robbery in connection with the Sept. 30, 2010 shooting death of 29-year-old Adam Coveney of Waltham. 

 in November 2010. 

Today's testimonies

During today's portion of the hearing, Waltham Police Detective Patrick Hart continued his testimony, which began on Dec. 16. During Hart's testimony, Defense Attorney John Salsberg focused on the details of Hart's interview with Peirce after the shooting.

Salsberg repeatedly questioned Hart on the process of the interview, and whether Hart made certain statements to encourage Peirce to answer questions about the incident and invoke the state's felony murder rule.

Hart answered, though, that his "purpose was to get [Peirce's] story" and the truth about what happened during the shooting.

State Trooper Jeffery Saunders was also questioned by Salsberg, who again focused on Peirce's interview with police as well as the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 2010 when Saunders and other police officers arrived at Peirce's home looking to bring him in for questioning. 

The final witness was Peirce's mother, Deborah Peirce, who was called forward by the defense. 

During her testimony, Deborah told the court that her son had been diagnosed in sixth grade with Attention Deficit Disorder as well as an executive function disorder, and had been prescribed medication to cope with the disabilities. However, Deborah said her son was not on those medications, which she said help him stay "level" and prevent "impulsive" actions.

Assistant District Attorney Elisha Willis argued, though, that despite his learning disabilities and lack of medication Peirce had been able to get through school and was on track to graduate in 2011. 

Deborah's testimony also included her recollection of the morning of Oct. 1, 2010 when the state troopers and local police arrived at her home looking for her son. 

While at her house with police, Deborah said State Police Sgt. Alan Hunte (who testified on Dec. 16) had promised her she would be able to sit in the interview room with her son during the police questioning.

Deborah Peirce detailed her experience at the Waltham Police Department, where she brought her son after he was called in for questioning. She said she was not able to sit in the room with her son during the interview. 

Deborah described the events at the police station as "confusing" and "sneaky."

Previous testimonies

During the Dec. 16 portion of the hearing, both prosecutors and defense attorneys questioned State Police Lt. Alan Hunte, Waltham Police Detective Jorge Orta and Detective Hart. 

Waltham Detective Jennifer Vadnais, who was the one to present Peirce a photo array during the interview process in Waltham, testified on Dec. 21. 

Peirce has appeared in court during the entire hearing, wearing a blue-collared shirt and a tie. Each time he discreetly waved to the dozen friends and family members seated behind him in the courtroom.

Peirce has been allowed to remove his handcuffs during the proceedings in order to take notes.

More than 20 pieces of evidence have been brought forward by the prosecution, including images of text messages on Coveney's cell phone that were found the night of his death. Willis displayed a text message conversation between Coveney and a "Benny P" that led up to the time Coveney was found dead.

In addition, prosecution has presented the 40-minute interview with Peirce after he was brought to Waltham Police Department on Oct. 1, 2010, the morning after the shooting. A 45-minute tape of Peirce's booking in Waltham was also shown. 

A decision on whether to suppress Peirce's statements will be filed by the court, the Middlesex District Attorney's Office said, but an there is not an exact deadline for the decision.

Peirce will be back in court on Feb. 29 for a hearing related to the status of DNA testing. A trial date is scheduled for May 14. 


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