The Boston teenager acquitted of killing an Irishman in 2011 but convicted at the same trial for the shooting of two other men was sentenced to serve time of five to six years at Massachusetts state prison on May 14.
A Suffolk Superior Court jury in March convicted John Graham as a youthful offender on two counts of armed assault with intent to rob and single counts of armed assault with intent to murder, aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and firearm offenses for shooting two men on Oct. 30, 2011. He was, however, acquitted of first-degree murder and armed assault with intent to rob in the fatal shooting of 36-year-old Ciaran Conneely three weeks prior to the non-fatal shooting.
Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum of the DA’s Homicide Unit recommended a prison sentence of six to 10 years followed by five years of probation. He advised the court that despite it being very likely that Graham was coerced into these crimes, the defendant still ‘made the decision to pull the trigger.’
He informed the court that any sentence that the now 19-year-old might receive, Graham would “still have a lot of life ahead of him."
Defense attorney Bob Sheketoff admitted to the court that “in cases like these I am glad I never tried to be a judge.” However, as an advocate for the defendant he was suggesting a maximum of five years with a lengthy probation period.
Judge Giles told the court that this particular case was ‘a difficult one under the circumstances.’
Giles noted that the defendant, who was 16 at the time of the homicide and subsequent double shooting, had “essentially no record at all” prior to those incidents.
She also acknowledged a report submitted by a social worker that outlined the instability and lack of good parenting in the teenager’s life as well as the ‘toxic relationships with a number of undesirables’ which he was involved with before his arrest in 2011.
Under Massachusetts law, Graham was automatically charged as an adult for the murder but was indicted as a youthful offender for all the other charges.
When handing down her sentence, Judge Giles advised the court that throughout the trial there had been some aggravating factors that had concerned her.
This was, namely, Graham’s behavior before, during and after the crimes for which he was convicted. She reminded the court that throughout the trial, several witnesses had testified that Graham had been joking and laughing just before and just after the events.
‘This aspect of his conduct and personality disturbs me enormously,’ Giles told the court.
The judge imposed a sentence of five to six years and three years of probation. She imposed probation conditions requested by Polumbaum, including orders that Graham abide by a curfew and wear a GPS monitor during his first year of probation, that he seek and maintain employment, obtain a GED, and stay away and have no contact with the victims.
Giles also ordered Graham to undergo a mental health evaluation and any counseling deemed necessary.
Evidence and testimony presented during the trial proved that Graham, armed with a firearm, approached the then 18- and 20-year-old victims in Dorchester and demanded cash. When the men refused to comply and even mocked him, Graham shot them and fled without taking their money. One victim was struck from behind by four bullets; the second victim was shot once in the arm.
Conneely, a native of County Galway, was found dead on Nahant Avenue twenty days earlier in October 2011, felled by a fatal gunshot wound. Ballistic testing showed that he had been killed with the same weapon used in the two shootings, and as with that case his assailant fled without taking his money. Trial testimony suggested that Graham admitted to shooting the man after an encounter in which he “couldn’t understand” the victim. Prosecutors argued that these statements, coupled with the ballistic evidence and the impulsive nature of the shootings, tied Graham to both cases.