Closing arguments presented for 2018 murder case

Dec 15, 2022

FALL RIVER — Following two weeks of testimony, attorneys presented their closing arguments Thursday in Fall River Superior Court for the trial of Robert Rose, who is accused of committing murder in Dartmouth in 2018.

Rose, who is from New Bedford, is charged with shooting and killing 37-year-old Joseph Tavares outside the Regency Hotel on Faunce Corner Road on the night of Dec. 22, 2018.

Matt Lopes, who presented closing remarks for the prosecution, told the jury that not only did Rose kill Tavares, but did so with intent.

According to the prosecution, Rose and Tavares knew each other and had a relationship that revolved around drugs. Tavares sold marijuana and cocaine, and the pair had previously met at the Regency Hotel parking lot where Tavares was killed.

Lopes said that Rose was allegedly $2,300 in debt to Tavares and intended to steal cocaine to sell to another drug dealer he was working with. 

“Joseph Tavares is just going to give him cocaine when he doesn’t have any money? No,” he said. “I suggest he was going there because he was going to take [the cocaine]. That’s why he went there with a .40 caliber Ruger firearm.”

Rose’s attorney, James Murphy, conceded that while his client did meet with Tavares to purchase cocaine, he “never expected anything like this to happen.”

“He was just there to get his things and go home,” he said.

Murphy added that if his client had intended to rob Tavares, “then why wouldn’t he have taken something?” According to the defense counsel, there were thousands of dollars worth of cocaine left at the scene, along with a “backpack full of weed.”

“That’s the world’s worst robbery,” Murphy said. “If you’re going to kill somebody, you’re going to take something.”

Murphy also questioned the evidence presented — most notably video feeds from many of the businesses along Faunce Corner Road, including video from the hotel.

According to surveillance video, a man the prosecution identified as Rose approached Tavares’s car and got into the passenger seat, where he remained for less than a minute, during which time hotel guests reported hearing arguing, followed by broken glass.

Within minutes of getting into the passenger seat of the victim's vehicle, the man fired three shots, striking Tavares in the head and the neck. After exiting the vehicle, the man shot the victim again in the left cheek.

Murphy, meanwhile, contends the quality of the video is too poor to properly identify Rose. Lopes, in return, pointed out that while the images are somewhat pixelated, phone records and tower pings place Rose at that spot at the time.

With regard to premediation, Murphy said the state’s suggestion is unfounded.

According to the defense counsel, Tavares’ death was the result of an accident. Murphy claims Tavares was the instigator, saying he was the one to point a gun at Rose and that during the ensuing struggle “the gun goes off multiple times.”

He added that his client did not recall how many times the gun went off, nor who pulled the trigger.

“The fact that Joseph Tavares is dead is a tragedy,” he said. “[But], there’s no evidence of premeditation.”

In response, Lopes said it's clear by the direction of the bullets who pulled the trigger.

“They’re only going toward Joseph Tavares,” he said. “There are no bullets going back at the defendant. Joseph Tavares isn’t pulling the trigger with the gun pointed toward himself.”

With arguments complete, the jury now enters deliberations. If convicted, Rose could face up to life in prison.

In addition to murder, the jury must also consider charges on unlawful possession of a firearm, removal of the serial number from the weapon, and illegal possession of ammunition.