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Tilfor Hamilton

Other Suffolk County, MA Exonerations
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On November 18, 2011, 32-year-old Tilfor Hamilton was arrested in Boston, Massachusetts on a charge of assault and battery after police concluded that he cut his common-law wife, Jackeline Grant, in the neck when they quarreled.

Grant did not speak with police at the scene about how her neck was cut. But two witnesses, Grant’s sister-in-law, Fenemae Eden Grant and Fenemae’s daughter, Nayobe, told police that Grant was cut by a box cutter held by Hamilton after she charged at him with a kitchen knife and then tripped and fell on top of him.

On May 15, 2012, Hamilton, who had no prior convictions, was additionally charged with witness intimidation. That charge was based on a conversation with Grant during which he said the cutting was an accident and that he wanted her to tell the truth.

Hamilton went to trial in Dorchester Division of Boston Municipal Court on June 6, 2012. Grant testified that she was upset with Hamilton because she believed he had been cheating on her.

Grant said that after Hamilton arrived, they argued and she went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. Grant admitted that she charged at Hamilton with the knife and yelled at Fenemae to call the police. As Grant and Hamilton struggled, Grant fell on top of Hamilton and felt blood on her neck, the result of being cut. Grant testified that she did not know how she was cut. Grant did not recall seeing Hamilton take the box cutter out of his pocket.

Grant also testified that five months later, prior to the trial, she telephoned Hamilton and asked him to meet with her. During that meeting, Grant called her friend, Janet McBean, to pray about the upcoming trial. McBean asked them to describe what happened. Hamilton said it was an accident. Grant told McBean that she could not say it was an accident because she did not know how it happened. McBean said that meant it was an accident. Hamilton also told Grant she should tell the truth.

The following day, the prosecution filed an additional charge of witness intimidation against Hamilton and McBean, although the prosecution quickly dismissed the charges against McBean.

The defense sought to call Fenemae and her daughter as witnesses. However, because the defense attorney had failed to list their names on his pre-trial witness list, the judge barred them from testifying. Without the witnesses’ testimony, the judge refused to give the jury any instruction relating to self-defense or accident.

On June 7, 2012, the jury convicted Hamilton of assault and battery, as well as witness intimidation. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Subsequently, Hamilton obtained a new defense attorney who filed a motion for a new trial. At a hearing on the motion, Fenemae testified that on the day of the incident, she brought her daughter, Nayobe, over to babysit for Grant’s children and found Grant waiting outside the home. She was angry and upset.

Fenemae said that the three of them went inside and were sitting in the living room listening to Grant talk about her suspicion that Hamilton had been seeing another woman. When Hamilton arrived and was confronted, he asked why Grant was bringing up the issue again since they had already talked about it and “fixed things.”

Fenemae said that when Grant disagreed, Hamilton replied, “You done beat me last night. You got my face scratched up and you bust my mouth.” Fenemae said that Hamilton did have visible injuries on his face.

In response, Grant began pushing and hitting Hamilton, Fenemae testified. At that point, Fenemae’s daughter took Grant’s children upstairs. Meanwhile, Fenemae tried to intervene. She said she ignored Hamilton’s plea to call 911 because she was afraid Grant would get arrested.

Nayobe then came downstairs. Both of them testified that at that point, Hamilton was trying to get away from Grant. They said they managed to stop the physical altercation and persuade Grant to sit down. During this lull, Hamilton said that Grant was cheating on him. Fenemae and Nayobe testified that when Grant heard that, she walked into kitchen and charged back out with a knife in hand.

They said Hamilton was empty-handed when Grant began lunging at his abdomen with the knife, saying she was going to kill him. Hamilton grabbed Grant’s hands with his hands and tried to hold them down. That’s when the knife fell to the floor.

Nayobe testified that as Fenemae ran upstairs to check on Grant’s children, Grant then picked up the knife again. In response, Hamilton took out his box cutter and held it “like he was trying to stop—like trying to scare her with it, but not like he was going to use it on her.”

Nayobe said Hamilton held the box cutter next to his side and that his arm was not extended. She said he did not swing, lunge, or point it at Grant and that the blade was only about halfway out.

She testified that Hamilton then tried to move away from Grant, but Grant went after him again with the knife. Hamilton tried to put the box cutter into his pocket, but Grant grabbed his hand and would not let him put it away, Nayobe said.

Meanwhile the knife in Grant’s hand fell a second time and broke. Grant screamed, “Hit me! Hit me!” and Hamilton yelled, “No, I’m not going to hit you.”

Nayobe said that Grant was pulling Hamilton toward her, yanking on his hand that held the box cutter. Grant tripped and fell backward and pulled Hamilton on top of her. When they both got to their feet, Nayobe said, Grant was bleeding from the neck.

The motion for new trial was denied and Hamilton appealed.

On May 16, 2016, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals reversed Hamilton’s convictions. The court ordered the witness intimidation charge dismissed for insufficient evidence, and ordered a new trial on the assault and battery charge. The court held that the trial judge should have allowed Hamilton to present evidence that he acted in self-defense, and that the judge should have given the jury an instruction on self-defense. Not long after, Hamilton was released from prison after completing his sentence.

On July 27, 2016, the Suffolk County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charge of assault and battery.

In 2017, Hamilton filed a lawsuit seeking $500,000 in compensation from the state of Massachusetts.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/9/2018
State:Massachusetts
County:Suffolk
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:Other Nonviolent Felony
Reported Crime Date:2011
Convicted:2012
Exonerated:2016
Sentence:5 years
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:32
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No