The Wellington-Harrington home where a Harvard grad student was killed in 1976. (Photo: Google)

The Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of a man who was convicted of killing a Harvard University student 25 years after the murder. Cambridge detectives working with the FBI had reopened the cold case and located defendant James Martin in Montreal, where Canadian immigration authorities arrested him.

The victim, Edward Paulsen, then 26, a graduate student at Harvard, was shot and killed in an apartment in the Wellington-Harrington neighborhood in September 1976. Paulsen and his brother had gone there to buy hashish from Martin’s friend, Gordon Brown. Brown and Martin arranged to steal their money instead, prosecutors said. Martin had a gun and shot Paulsen during the attempted robbery.

Brown and Martin fled after the murder, throwing the gun off the Tobin Bridge. Police found Brown in 1982 in New Jersey and Martin in 2000 in Montreal. Both men were convicted of first-degree murder, but the Supreme Judicial Court later reduced Brown’s charge to second-degree murder because Brown was involved only with the “remote outer fringes” of the crime, the SJC said.

A Middlesex Superior Court jury convicted Martin in 2001 of first-degree felony murder, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. At his trial, Martin claimed that Paulsen was killed when the Harvard student pulled out a gun during the drug deal and the two men struggled over the weapon.

In his appeal to the SJC, Martin claimed his court-appointed lawyer at the trial was ineffective and that the judge should have instructed the jury about the elements of first- and second-degree manslaughter as an alternative to a murder conviction. He also argued the SJC’s ruling in the Brown case eliminating felony-murder as an independent charge should apply to his case, although he was convicted before the decision.

The court rejected all three arguments, although it agreed with Martin that his lawyer was “unreasonable” to tell the jury that Brown would testify at the trial when the attorney had no assurance Brown would appear. Still, the SJC said, the lapse wasn’t likely to influence the jury’s decision, so Martin didn’t merit a new trial.

Third party

Martin’s girlfriend at the time of the murder, Meredith Weiss, drove Martin to Brown’s apartment the night of the crime, though she was waiting outside the apartment building when the shooting occurred. Weiss later drove the men to New York City, prosecutors said. The three had met each other in their home town, Englewood, New Jersey, according to prosecutors.

Weiss was charged with being an accessory to Paulsen’s murder, but the charge was set aside. After police arrested Brown, Weiss agreed to testify against him and Martin, who was still missing, in return for prosecutors committing not to revive the charge of being an accessory, according to court papers. Weiss was in touch with Martin while he lived in Montreal, court filings said.

Martin was arrested a number of times in Montreal and was even deported, but soon returned to Canada, according to news reports.