Top Mass. Court Denies Appeal by 2009 Kirkland Shooter

ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/POOL

Shorty after being convicted of the murder of Justin Cosby, Jabrai Jordan Copney listens as the victim’s mother reads a statement. Denise Cosby spoke of the pain of losing her 21-year-old son and asked Copney why he committed the crime.

UPDATED: June 22, 2014, at 3:30 p.m.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on Tuesday denied an appeal for a retrial or a lessening of the degree of guilt by Jabrai Jordan Copney, the gunman convicted of the May 2009 Kirkland House shooting.

“We have reviewed the briefs and the entire record and conclude that there is no reason for us to reduce the degree of guilt or order a new trial,” the court wrote in its opinion.

Copney was found guilty in April 2011 of killing Justin Cosby, a campus drug dealer, in a proposed drug deal that went tragically awry.

Copney, of New York, visited Harvard often in 2008 and 2009 to visit his then-senior girlfriend, Brittany J. Smith. On one such visit, in May 2009, he had arranged to to purchase three pounds of marijuana from Cosby. As the proposed deal unfolded, Copney and two friends unaffiliated with the University attempted to rob Cosby at gunpoint in the Kirkland House basement. Cosby refused to turn the drugs over and was shot at several times as he ran from Kirkland. One bullet hit him, and he later died from that gunshot wound.

In 2011, Copney was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder. His two co-defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges of manslaughter and received lighter sentences after agreeing to cooperate as witnesses in the original trial. Smith, who was only days shy of graduating, pleaded guilty to five of six counts and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Copney’s move for appeal was based partially on his contention that the presiding judge failed to suppress evidence taken from what the defendant believed was a “warrantless” entry into Smith’s room, where Copney was accustomed to stay, according to the court’s slip opinion. The defendant also argued that the judge incorrectly allowed consideration of evidence of earlier misconduct at Yale.

The Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts’s highest judicial body, ruled on Tuesday that “the defendant's assertion that society would be willing to recognize his expectation of privacy in Smith's room as reasonable because he lived in the room lacks support in both fact and law.”

Citing multiple reasons for the police’s entry of Smith’s room, including her failure to respond to administrators and Copney's use of Smith's ID, the court decided that the “police had reason to believe there was some connection between Smith and the homicide, and they could not rule out that Smith also may have been a victim.”

—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at theodore.delwiche@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: June 22, 2014

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated who the Supreme Judicial Court cited for using the ID of Brittany J. Smith. In fact, it was Jabrai Jordan Copney.

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