High Court Reduces Conviction in Slaying of Army Veteran

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BOSTON — The highest court in Massachusetts has reduced the first-degree murder conviction of a man found guilty of killing an Army veteran during a fight in Boston's Theater District in 2012 to second-degree murder in a decision that redefines “extreme atrocity or cruelty” in state murder cases.

Peter Castillo, 32, of Salem, was convicted in 2016 of shooting Iraq War veteran Stephen Perez, 22, of Revere, once in the back.

In the decision released Tuesday and written by Chief Justice Ralph Gants before his death, the Supreme Judicial Court said in the future prosecutors will have to show more than just that a victim suffered greatly before dying to prove extreme atrocity or cruelty.

The ruling requires jurors in future murder cases to consider three issues in order to find extreme atrocity or cruelty: a defendant was “indifferent to or took pleasure in" the victim's suffering; the method or means of killing was likely to increase or prolong the victim’s suffering; and the means “were excessive and out of proportion" to what is needed to kill a person.

Castillo will now be eligible for parole. First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

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