Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the first-degree homicide convictions of a Marblehead man Tuesday.
In the winter of 2014, a Salem Superior Court jury found Peter Ronchi guilty in the stabbing death of his pregnant girlfriend, Yuliya Galperina, and her nearly full-term fetus.
Following the two first-degree murder convictions, Superior Court Judge David Lowy, now an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, sentenced Ronchi to two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
With his appeal, Ronchi was attempting to reduce his first-degree convictions to manslaughter, which would have made him eligible for parole. But the court affirmed the outcome in the lower court.
Ronchi argued that he had stabbed Galperina in the “heat of passion upon reasonable provocation,” that being that the victim had disclosed — falsely — that he was not the unborn child’s father.
Ronchi also argued that he could not be held liable for the death of the fetus because he had not stabbed or otherwise injured the fetus. Instead, the evidence showed that the fetus had died because the mother’s blood had stopped circulating.
Gaziano called “strained at best” Ronchi’s contention that the fetus was uninjured by the stabbing, even if none of the 15 stab wounds touched the fetus.
“By ending the mother’s life, he destroyed the viable fetus through the cessation of life-sustaining maternal blood flow,” Gaziano wrote.
The court also used Ronchi’’s case as an opportunity to address the question of whether it would continue to recognize “oral revelations of infidelity” as a basis for “reasonable provocation” in manslaughter cases, a matter on which the court had expressed “serious doubt” last year in the case Commonwealth v. Steeves.
The SJC has now gone a step further, deciding that the principle had “run its course.”
“The exception rests upon a shaky, misogynistic foundation and has no place in our modern jurisprudence,” Gaziano wrote. “Going forward, we no longer will recognize that an oral discovery of infidelity satisfies the objective element of something that would provoke a reasonable person to kill his or her spouse.”