Just a month after Stephane Etienne, 21, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his friend, 18-year-old Christopher Pichardo, the charge was vacated and his case is headed to the state’s highest court, Etienne’s lawyer said.
Etienne was convicted in April following a January 2012 armed home invasion that turned deadly. Etienne, Pichardo, and a third friend, Robinson Tejeda, 24, conspired to steal a half pound of marijuana from a Dorchester home, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, but a gunfight at the scene left Pichardo dead.
According to prosecutors, the trio set up a drug deal with Frederick Reynoso, 23, at 23 Trull Street on Jan. 14, 2012. When the friends arrived under the guise of buying the marijuana for $2,200, Pichardo pulled out a gun.
According to court documents, Pichardo removed a black .40 caliber Glock from his waistband after the marijuana was brought out and told Reynoso’s associate, ”You know what time it is.”
The plan went awry when Reynoso then pulled a .32 caliber revolver and told Pichardo, “No, you know what time it is.” A gun battle ensued, and Pichardo was fatally shot by Reynoso, according to prosecutors.
Etienne and Tejeda fled.
Reynoso was acquitted for murder in Dec. 2013, though he was found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and distribution of a Class D substance.
Meanwhile, although they didn’t pull the trigger, both Etienne and Tejeda were convicted of second-degree murder, as well as armed robbery and home invasion. In both cases, the convictions were vacated by trial judges. Etienne’s murder conviction was vacated on May 7, according to his lawyer, Aviva Jeruchim. The DA’s office appealed the lower court decisions and are awaiting a Supreme Judicial Court decision, Jeruchim said.
Suffolk County DA spokesman Jake Wark said he thinks the high court will rule on the side of the prosecutors. “We believe the case law is in our favor,” Wark said.
Daniel Conley, the Suffolk County DA, articulated the prosecutors’ position on Pichardo’s death:
“Death or serious injury is a foreseeable consequence of an armed drug robbery,” said Conley. “A person who plans and commits that robbery is just as responsible for an ensuing death as the person who pulls the trigger.”
Further reading on the case:
- The Boston Globe’s coverage of Pichardo’s death.
- Pichardo’s obituary, which mentions he was a CNA and worked for Straight Ahead Ministries.
- An AP story that ran in the Boston Globe following Etienne’s conviction.
- A discussion of reasoning behind Tejeda’s acquittal for murder and its legal underpinnings by SJC member Janet L. Sanders. The decision also includes a detailed account of the robbery and Pichardo’s death.
- An Emerson College student wrote a paper for her journalism law class about observing the closing arguments in Reynoso’s Dec. 2013 trial.