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SJC: Man Convicted For First-Degree Murder Of Boston Youth Worker To Get New Trial

In this file photo from 2014, Ian Jaffier holds a picture of his daughter, Dawnn Jaffier, 26, who was fatally shot on Blue Hill Avenue that year. (Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
In this file photo from 2014, Ian Jaffier holds a picture of his daughter, Dawnn Jaffier, 26, who was fatally shot on Blue Hill Avenue that year. (Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The state's highest court ruled Monday that one of two men convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of an innocent bystander during a confrontation in Dorchester should get a new trial.

Wesson Colas was convicted in the killing of 26-year-old youth worker Dawnn Jaffier, and the non-fatal shooting of another woman, near Dorchester's J'ouvert Parade, a Caribbean festival, in 2014.

Though Colas didn't fire a shot, prosecutors said he was equally responsible as the gunman, Keith Williams, because Colas pointed a weapon at the rival with the intent to kill and therefore participated in the gun battle. Williams was also sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder.

But the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that there is not enough evidence that Colas intended to kill Williams. There is no evidence that the gun Colas had was even loaded, Justice Frank Gaziano wrote, or that he took any steps to fire it beyond pointing it in Williams' direction.

Gaziano called it a "close call."

"The fact that, in the midst of an argument, the defendant pointed a firearm at an opponent is not enough to carry the Commonwealth's burden," he wrote.

Colas' appellate attorney, Esther Horwich, said there wasn't enough evidence that Colas even had a gun that day. She said those who testified against Colas had conflicting descriptions of the purported gun. She said it was more likely witnesses saw Colas' black and silver cellphone in his hand.

The SJC declined to weigh in on the evidence.

"This was an absolutely tragic shooting of innocent bystanders, and it's heartbreaking, but convicting someone who is innocent of the charges doesn't make it any better," Horwich said. "In fact, I think it makes it worse."

The court ruled that Colas could be tried on second-degree murder. The decision on what to do next falls to Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Rollins said she was "considering the options available to us with regard to a retrial," and would be speaking with the Jaffier family and the second victim.

"Dawnn Jaffier’s life was stolen as the result of a feud in which she took no part. Legal nuances and 'close calls' offer no solace nor fill the enormous void left after Dawnn’s murder and the life forever altered of the shooting victim who survived," Rollins said. "Dawnn’s family, her loved ones, the communities she devoted her brief life to empowering — and the surviving victim of this act of gun violence — are all left with unanswered questions and reopened wounds as the case against Mr. Colas enters this new chapter."

The shooter, Williams, is also appealing his conviction.

This article was originally published on February 22, 2021.

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