Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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Defendant Mohammad Salimullah was convicted by jury on one count of attempted murder, two counts of first degree assault, one count of second degree assault, and one count of reckless conduct. He appealed: (1) a superior court order denying his motion to dismiss on the grounds that the State failed to comply with RSA 135:17-a (2015) (amended 2019) in bringing indictments against him in 2016; (2) another superior court order denying his motion for a competency determination prior to sentencing; and (3) a third superior court order imposing a no-contact condition on a stand-committed sentence. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the imposition of the no-contact condition, but otherwise affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Salimullah" on Justia Law

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Defendants James Folley and his wife, Karen Folley, appealed their convictions after a joint jury trial on two counts of theft by unauthorized taking as a principal or accomplice, and as to James, an additional count of financial exploitation of an elderly adult. They also appealed the trial court’s restitution order requiring that they pay restitution to an assisted living facility where the victim resided at the time of the crimes. To the New Hampshire Supreme Court they argued: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions; and (2) the trial court erred by ordering them to pay restitution to the facility because it is not entitled to compensation under RSA 651:62 (2016). After review, the Supreme Court affirmed defendants’ convictions but reversed the restitution order because the economic loss claimed by the facility was not a direct result of the defendants’ criminal conduct. View "New Hampshire v. Folley" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ernest Jones appealed a superior court order denying his motion to suppress evidence that led to his conviction on one count of possession of a controlled drug. He appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by: (1) concluding that he was not seized during his encounter with two Concord police officers; and (2) refusing to consider his race in its seizure analysis. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed and remanded because the State failed to meet its burden of showing that defendant was not seized. Furthermore, the Court concluded that race was one circumstance that courts may consider in conducting the totality of the circumstances seizure analysis. View "New Hampshire v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Defendant Christina Hill appealed a superior court order releasing her before trial on the condition that she pay $10,000 cash bail, among other conditions. Defendant was charged with, and pleaded not guilty to, three drug-related charges: possession of heroin, possession of crack cocaine, and sale of crack cocaine. At her arraignment, the State requested that the court preventively detain defendant because her release posed a danger to the community. According to the State, defendant engaged in the charged conduct while released on her own recognizance on another drug possession charge, and on a suspended sentence. The State contended that, by possessing and selling controlled drugs and engaging in other conduct, defendant violated the terms of her release. Although, since filing her appeal, defendant resolved the charges against her by plea, the parties agreed her appeal was not moot “because it presents legal issues that are of pressing public interest and are capable of repetition yet evading review.” They have asked the New Hampshire Supreme Court to decide “the primary issue raised in her bail appeal — whether under RSA 597:2, a trial court may set bail at an amount the defendant cannot meet, on the sole basis that the defendant is a flight risk.” The Supreme Court agreed this issue was not moot, and held that RSA 597:2 (Supp. 2018) (amended 2019) permitted a trial court to set unaffordable bail “on the sole basis that the defendant is a flight risk.” View "New Hampshire v. Hill" on Justia Law

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Defendant Henry Carnevale was convicted by jury of felony reckless conduct, with a deadly weapon, and conduct after an accident. Defendant was driving north on Interstate 89 in Grantham, New Hampshire, in his 7,300-pound sport utility vehicle, when he began tailgating a Volkswagen Jetta transporting the victim (driver of the VW) and his three-year-old son. Approaching a construction area, defendant made a hand gesture and moved into the right lane, passing extremely close to the rear of the VW. Defendant abruptly cut back into the left lane, causing the rear of the SUV to hit the front of the VW. The victim was forced to brake heavily and veer right, losing control of his car, and crashing into a guardrail located above an underpass at approximately 65-70 miles per hour. After the crash, there were VW parts, fluids, and tire marks all over the highway. The victim and his son were transported by ambulance to the hospital. After the accident, defendant drove away from the scene, but police identified his vehicle’s license plate and arrested him later that day. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred by denying his motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the basis that there was insufficient evidence that he acted “recklessly” and that his automobile constituted a “deadly weapon.” He also argued the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new trial based upon ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Carnevale" on Justia Law

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Defendant Timothy Barr was convicted by jury on two counts of manufacturing, and one count of possessing, child sexual abuse images. He argued that: (1) RSA chapter 649-A (2016 & Supp. 2018), as applied, violated his right to the freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Part I, Article 22 of the New Hampshire Constitution because the images underlying his convictions depict legal sexual conduct; and (2) the trial court erred by denying his request to cross-examine the minor depicted in the images about her prior sexual history. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed because child pornography depicting an actual child remained a category of speech unprotected by the First Amendment, and the trial court’s decision to deny the defendant’s cross-examination request was not an unsustainable exercise of discretion. View "New Hampshire v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Defendant Adrien Stillwell was convicted by jury on one count of first degree murder, one count of second degree murder, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Paulson Papillon sold drugs to M.P. and to a confidential informant. Shortly thereafter, police arrested and jailed Papillon for selling drugs to the informant. After Papillon was released, and believing that M.P. was a “snitch” and responsible for his arrest, Papillon offered a bounty for M.P.’s death. Papillon subsequently met with the defendant, Nathanial Smith, and Michael Younge on multiple occasions and discussed killing M.P. Defendant and Smith met Younge at a convenience store; the trio then headed to M.P.’s apartment building, where defendant shot and killed M.P. Shortly thereafter, a neighbor, who had heard “loud bangs” and her trash barrel falling over, found a gun when picking up the trash barrel. Forensic testing established that a bullet recovered from the victim’s body had been fired from the gun. A New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory employee subsequently swabbed the gun for DNA. Police executed a body warrant on defendant at the police department in Manchester, and took a buccal swab of the inside of his mouth for use as a “known sample” for comparison to other evidence. Defendant waived his Miranda rights and spoke with police for approximately forty-five minutes in a recorded interview. After his arrest, defendant shared a jail cell with Scott Collier, and told Collier he had killed M.P., sharing details as to what happened that had not been included in news reports. During a second interview with police, defendant again denied being involved with M.P.’s murder, and denied knowing Papillon, Smith, or Younge. Defendant, Younge, Smith, and Papillon were subsequently indicted for first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. On appeal, defendant argued the superior court erred by: (1) allowing an expert to testify in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) admitting the out-of-court statements of an unavailable witness under the statement against penal interest exception to the hearsay rule; and (3) failing to take sua sponte action to address the allegedly improper statements made by the prosecutor during the State’s closing argument. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed defendant’s conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Stillwell" on Justia Law

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Defendant James Castine was convicted by jury of selling a controlled drug. A Rockingham County Drug Task Force confidential informant told police he could purchase heroin from defendant. The informant agreed to conduct three controlled buys from defendant. The drugs purchased from the defendant were tested, and all three samples were determined to contain a mixture of fentanyl and cocaine. Both the CI and the deputy testified that they were unable to differentiate between heroin and fentanyl. On appeal, defendant challenged: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions; and (2) the trial court’s consideration at sentencing of evidence that he was the leader of a drug enterprise. With respect to (1), the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that the essence of the defendant’s argument was that the evidence was insufficient because the informant was the only witness who testified that defendant sold him drugs on the three occasions at issue. The defendant claimed that one or the other of two individuals, who were present when the transactions occurred, could have made the sales. Furthermore, defendant argued the trial court should not have considered the evidence presented by the State that suggested a drug scheme beyond the three buys made by the informant. The Supreme Court was not persuaded by defendant’s arguments, finding the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, defendant was guilty of selling a controlled drug on three occasions. Defendant did not dispute, that, at the time of sentencing, he had been indicted on the drug enterprise charges. “Given the trial court’s knowledge of the indictments, as well as the other information provided by the State, the court had a reliable basis upon which to conclude that the defendant was involved in a drug enterprise that extended beyond the three buys made by the [confidential informant].” Judgment of conviction was affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Castine" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a superior court order pertaining to the conviction of defendant Jonathan Folds' motion to suppress a firearm and motion to dismiss two indictments that alleged he violated the armed career criminal statute. The trial court granted both motions. The State argued the court erred because: (1) the firearm’s seizure satisfied the requirements of the plain view exception to the warrant requirement; and (2) the armed career criminal statute did not require defendant’s qualifying felony convictions to arise from at least three separate criminal episodes. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the armed career criminal indictments, reversed the suppression ruling, and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Folds" on Justia Law

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The State of New Hampshire filed a petition for original jurisdiction seeking review of a circuit court order denying a request by the Office of the Attorney General (AGO) to release records underlying its investigation into an incident involving minors. According to the AGO, in 2017, there was an incident involving several minors in Claremont, New Hampshire. The AGO, the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Claremont Police Department jointly investigated the incident. Subsequently, the Sullivan County Attorney filed delinquency petitions in the circuit court against one of the juveniles. The AGO asserted that the evidence obtained during the investigation was not confidential under RSA 169-B:35 but, even if it were, “significant policy considerations” allowed disclosure as long as the juvenile’s identity was protected. Following a hearing, the trial court rejected the AGO’s argument that RSA chapter 169-B did not apply to the AGO’s investigatory records. The court stated that “RSA 169-B:35 provides that all case records relative to delinquencies are confidential. Publication of information concerning a juvenile case is strictly prohibited with few legislatively enacted exceptions. None of those exceptions apply in this case.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling that the records were confidential under RSA 169-B:35 (Supp. 2018). View "Petition of the State of New Hampshire" on Justia Law