The Commonwealth v Berkowitz case was brought forward in New York after a woman accused her dance instructor of rape. The victim’s testimony in Commonwealth v Berkowitz stated that Berkowitz raped her repeatedly over three months. Still, there were no witnesses to the forcible compulsion, and they had never met outside of his studio.
Commonwealth v Berkowitz is a remarkable case studied by criminal law students. The alleged victim did not seem to have sufficient evidence in the court’s eyes despite Berkowitz’s reputation of using actual physical force to commit indecent assault on his victims. Find out more on the Commonwealth v Berkowitz case below.
Who is Berkowitz and what were his crimes?
Berkowitz was born Richard David Falco on June 1, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Tony Falco, was an Italian American New York City Fire Department lieutenant and his mother, Betty Broder, was a waitress. However, Betty gave the child up a few days after he was born, and although she did not give her reasons for doing so, it is suspected that her husband threatened to leave her if she didn’t.
He was then adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz, a Jewish-American couple who were modest hardware store retailers. The family lived in the South Ozone Park section of Queens. Berkowitz was considered very bright and attended public school until the tenth grade as a child.
He would later claim that his psychotic breaks began around this time, though he continued to function fairly well in society for many years to come.
Some observers attributed the behaviour to the trauma of his alleged abusiveness, while others suggested it may have stemmed from attention deficit disorder or attachment disorder. At age 17, he joined the Army but was discharged after only three weeks because of his inability to adjust to military life.
Berkowitz left home at 20 and moved into an apartment in Queens, where he supported himself by shooting dogs and collecting their blood, which he sold as “gravy” for $8 per jar. He became a regular customer of ” Son of Sam ” and other pornographic mail-order houses.
Berkowitz would later claim that he derived pleasure from such material because it allowed him to assume a fantasy identity instead of his everyday identity as an unattractive and frustrated person.
David Berkowitz, known by the moniker “Son of Sam,” is serving a prison sentence for murdering six victims and injuring seven others with a .44 calibre Bulldog revolver. He committed his crimes between 1976 and 1977 in New York City, primarily targeting young women alone at night and fatally wounding a couple in their home and shooting two teen boys. Berkowitz was captured on August 10, 1977, and pleaded guilty six days later to the shootings.
Berkowitz claims that he began his killing spree when he became possessed by demonic forces; however, during his incarceration, Berkowitz has renounced the possession claims and stated that he was solely responsible for his crimes.
Berkowitz claims that as a young boy, his neighbour’s dog sometimes howled in a human-like voice saying, “I am dead, I am dead,” and he believes this was a sign from Sam Carr, the pet of another neighbour. Until today, no one knows the dog’s name.
Berkowitz, who was adopted at six weeks old, was allegedly physically abused by his parents. He claims were members of a violent satanic cult that required him to be baptized in blood and participate in ritual sacrifices. Berkowitz also claims that his neighbour Sam Carr had somehow communicated with him through these rituals about the future events he would commit.
Berkowitz was arrested on August 10, 1977, after being seen loitering near the scene of one of his shootings. Police opened fire on Berkowitz when he pulled a .44 Bulldog revolver from his pocket, but he escaped without injury.
They found loaded weapons alongside Satanic paraphernalia when they apprehended him later at his apartment. Berkowitz claimed that he was possessed by demons when committing his crimes but now believes that the demons were actually of his alternate personality.
What was Berkowitz indecent assault charge in Commonwealth V Berkowitz?
The trial court will allow a civil attorney to question serial killer David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, about an indecent assault charge filed against him in Brooklyn’s Criminal Court.
A special prosecutor wants Berkowitz to explain why he pleaded guilty June 24, 1977, to a reduced indecent assault in the second-degree charge. He was later arraigned in the trial court on a similar indecent assault charge.
The special prosecutor will try to find out why Berkowitz pleaded guilty if he did not commit indecent assault, said Janine Kava, spokesperson for District Attorney Joe Hynes.
In Commonwealth v. Berkowitz, the Victims of rape are perhaps the most vulnerable individuals to face trial. One person’s testimony is what gets fact-finders either to convict or not convict an accused rapist, so it makes sense that rape victims are given extra protection during the trial. Almost all states have a rape shield law that guards victims against being cross-examined about their past sexual conduct or attire at the time of the trial.
What happened when the court reversed the defendant’s conviction on Berkowitz?
On Wednesday, October 15th 2014, the Commonwealth v Berkowitz case was heard in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. This case was about the commonwealth trying to convict David Berkowitz of indecent assault and battery on a child. This charge would result in him being required to register as a sex offender if convicted.
The trial court erroneously applied common law (found in previous cases). The commonwealth felt that because of the definition, common law made sense. The indecent assault and battery on a child charge was handed down at the time of common law.
Commonwealth V Berkowitz also argued that if common law was not used, the defendant would go free on a technicality. Mr Berkowitz pleaded guilty to many crimes, but he did not. He was arrested on his daughter’s report of him inappropriately touching her while sleeping in her bed at night when she was an infant.
Since there was no common law crime for indecent assault and battery on a child, this would be a defense to a common law charge. Mr Berkowitz’s lawyer argued that the trial court erroneously applied common law to simple misdemeanour cases, which had been established as Commonwealth v Greene. The case was decided in 2008, and the court reversed the defendant’s conviction.
This case was different because common law had never been used before to convict an indecent assault and battery on a child charge ( Commonwealth v Berkowitz ). They felt this charge should have been taken as if common law did not exist, and the defendant would go free on a technicality.
How was David Berkowitz caught?
Cacilia Davis, a New York City resident, saw a patrol officer named Michael Cataneo issuing a ticket to a car parked next to a fire hydrant as she was walking her dog. A few minutes after the officer had left, she noticed a young man walk past her from the car’s direction and was eyeing her intently.
Davis felt uneasy because he seemed to be holding a dark object in his hand, and she ran home only to hear gunshots in the street behind her. After the incident, she remained silent until she finally decided to call the police after four days. The police investigated each car ticketed around that area that same night.
Berkowitz’s yellow 1970 Ford Galaxie was one of the investigated cars that night. Detective James Justis of the NYPD called Yonkers police on August 9, 1977, and requested them to interview Berkowitz. The dispatcher who answered the call was Wheat Carr, Sam Carr’s daughter and sister of Michael and John Carr, allegedly Berkowitz’s cult confederates.
A sergeant with the Yonkers Police Department named Mike Novotny suspected Berkowitz of other strange crimes that appeared in a Son of Sam letter. Yonkers detectives even suspected that Berkowitz was the Son of Sam.
In 1978, a young couple was shot and killed as they slept in their car. The “.44 Caliber Killer” claimed his next six victims in the weeks that followed.
In October 1977, Virginia Voskerichian, age 19, was walking to her house from school when a man drove up behind her and shot her. She died en route to the hospital.
This was the first murder attributed to Berkowitz, and police initially believed it was a terrorist act by an extremist group but soon realized that all the others were similar. The common thread between them was that they took place on Wednesdays or Thursdays near full moons.
The second victim was a young man shot while walking with a female companion. The third victim was a couple killed in their car, and it happened on the same day as Voskerichian’s murder. Two others were shot and killed within two weeks of the third murder, one on October 23rd and another on October 29th.
On November 8, 1977, Berkowitz again killed a young man and his female companion. However, on January 30, 1978, the killings stopped and the .44 Caliber Killer seemed to disappear.
Six months later, on June 26, an officer noticed a strange car with its engine running near a fire hydrant in Queens. When he approached the vehicle, he saw the occupants napping and left them alone.
When he was back in his patrol car, however, the Ford Galaxie with New Jersey plates came up as stolen, and the officer went back to question it. At this moment, Berkowitz woke up and quickly sped away. The police gave chase and pulled over the car a short distance later. Berkowitz and his companion, a 25-year-old woman named Rosemary Keenan, were taken in for questioning.
In the car, police found a rifle covered in blood. Upon further investigation, they also found a letter from the ” .44 Caliber Killer ” to Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin. The next day Breslin received a letter from the killer himself.
The letters turned out to be from Berkowitz, and he admitted to the shootings. He also sent another letter to detectives, which included an additional few lines about wanting money and a car in exchange for stopping the murders.
Police traced some of the bullets found at crime scenes with a .44-caliber Charter Arms Bulldog revolver, leading them to Berkowitz. Police found the gun in his apartment and handwritten letters from the killer. Some of the notes were addressed to “Son of Sam,” while others were directed at a “Sam.”
The police also found a calendar marked with several significant dates (the murders that took place on them) along with other evidence. When questioned, Berkowitz confessed to the crimes but was found mentally ill and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.
Berkowitz was initially confined to a Kings County Hospital psychiatric ward, and the staff there reported that he was very troubled by this environment. After sentencing, he was escorted to Sing Sing prison, then later to Clinton Correctional Facility for further examination.
He spent another two months at the Central New York Psychiatric Center before moving on to Attica prison, where he served for a decade. He then moved to Sullivan Correctional Facility for many years, then later to Shawangunk Correctional Facility.
Many years after Berkowitz was arrested, the name “Son of Sam” became famous as a notorious killer’s name. Pop culture has helped propel his notoriety, while Berkowitz remains remorseful and keeps expressing this to Christian websites.
The New York State Legislature passed a law to prevent convicted criminals from profiting from movies, books or anything else relating to crime stories after Berkowitz was captured due to speculations that he would receive a lot of money from publishers for his story.
Spike Lee made the film Summer of Sam in 1999 with actor Michael Badalucco playing the Son of Sam. The movie is about the tensions in a Bronx neighbourhood when Berkowitz was involved in the shootings.
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