By Matthew K. Roy
PEABODY — A jury yesterday acquitted paroled murderer Charles "Chucky" Doucette Jr., who was on trial for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and other charges stemming from a Valentine's Day argument with his former girlfriend.
"It just goes to show you that our jury system works," Doucette's lawyer, Scott Dullea, said after the verdict. "You can't try a person on his past."
Doucette, 51, of 18 Doloff Ave., Beverly, was also charged with threatening to commit a crime and intimidation of a witness. It took a jury of four men and two women about 90 minutes to find him innocent. Doucette, however, is likely to remain in custody until the Parole Board reviews the case.
His former girlfriend, Melissa Markus, accused him of dragging her alongside his truck and threatening to put a bullet in her head during an argument outside Doucette's home on the afternoon of Feb. 14. The prosecution argued that, given his criminal history and two past instances when Doucette allegedly struck her during their two-year relationship, Markus had reason to fear for her safety.
But Doucette's lawyers said Markus, 47, was the aggressor, that she was intoxicated and that Doucette was merely trying to get away from her. Her story kept changing, right up until the start of the trial on Tuesday morning, according to Dullea.
During his closing argument, he said the prosecution's case was "riddled with reasonable doubt and inconsistencies."
"They can't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt because there is no case," Dullea said. "They want you to convict on emotion or passion. They certainly don't want you to consider the facts."
Upset that the girlfriend he met in Alcoholics Anonymous was drinking again, Doucette took back the key she had to his home and moved out her belongings, Markus testified. While they argued outside his house, she claimed he threatened her and then, while she was standing beside the driver's side window of his truck, he "dragged" her alongside as he drove away.
But Doucette's neighbor, Sophia Mahalares, said she witnessed the incident from her second-floor window and told the jury that Markus was not dragged.
"She fell straight down to the ground," Mahalares said. Markus was unsteady on her feet and appeared drunk, the neighbor said. And, from her vantage point, Mahalares said, it looked like Markus was hitting or grabbing Doucette through his truck window.
Fifteen minutes after calling 911, Markus left a voice mail with Doucette telling him to "get your ass back here." She left six more voice mails for him, called his sister looking for him and then at 9:21 p.m., "after not getting what she wants," she called back the police, Dullea said. It was then, 31/2 hours after the incident and her initial report, that she first mentioned the threat to authorities.
Dullea criticized the police for their rush to judgment and an investigation he said took "five minutes." They didn't bother interviewing witnesses at the scene, he said.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Matthew Hemond said Doucette was angry with Markus and "didn't care about her safety that night." He showed the jury photographs of the cuts and bruises Markus suffered on her hands and face.
"Hold him accountable," Hemond asked the jury.
Doucette is on parole from seven life sentences, imposed in 1991 for the killing of Raymond Bufalino of Salem, and two home invasions in Peabody and Lynnfield while he was awaiting trial in the murder. He was released in 2007.
Eitan Goldberg, who joined Dullea in representing Doucette, said he would likely ask for Doucette to be released from custody while his case is being considered by the Parole Board.