Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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Defendant Bryon Whitney appealed a superior court order that remanded his case to the circuit court on grounds that, because he was convicted of a class B misdemeanor in circuit court, the superior court lacked jurisdiction over the appeal from the circuit court. Defendant was charged in circuit court with resisting arrest or detention. Following a bench trial, defendant was found guilty and sentenced to pay a 500 fine, plus penalty assessment. Defendant filed an appeal with the superior court under RSA 599:1, seeking a de novo jury trial. Because the superior court’s jurisdiction to hear de novo appeals from circuit court was conferred by statute, determining the jurisdiction of the superior court in this case was a matter of statutory interpretation, which presented a question of law subject to the New Hampshire Supreme Court's de novo review. Defendant argued he was charged with a class A misdemeanor in the circuit court and, thus, the superior court erred in remanding the case back to the circuit court, rather than providing him with a jury trial. He further argued that by classifying the offense as a class B misdemeanor, the superior court effectively violated his statutory right to appeal to superior court for a de novo jury trial. The Supreme Court determined that when a defendant is charged with a class A misdemeanor in circuit court, but the sentence does not include a period of incarceration and, pursuant to RSA 625:9, VIII (2016), the court records the conviction and sentence as a class B misdemeanor. Defendant would then still have a right to a de novo jury trial in superior court. The Court concluded those circumstances were not present here: because defendant was charged with a class B misdemeanor in circuit court, he was never exposed to the imposition of class A misdemeanor penalties and was, therefore, not entitled to a de novo jury trial. View "New Hampshire v. Whitney" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jonathan Woodbury appealed his convictions and sentences on one count of falsifying physical evidence, and two counts of assault by a prisoner. In December 2016, defendant was an inmate at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility who got involved in a physical altercation with Matthew Moriarty, another inmate at the facility. At the time of the incident, Moriarty was fighting with his cellmate, Terrence Hartley, and had sustained severe injuries. While most of the dispute between Hartley and Moriarty occurred within their cell, at one point during the fight, Moriarty was outside of the cell when the cell door closed, locking him outside. After attempting to get back inside, Moriarty, while bleeding from his face, spit at Hartley through an opening in the cell door. Defendant, who was watching from the common area of the cellblock, came up behind Moriarty and struck him with his fist on the side of the face. Moriarty then swung at and struck defendant, who continued the altercation, twice more striking Moriarty with his fist. Following this exchange, defendant, with the help of another inmate, mopped up Moriarty’s blood from the floor and tables in the common area. Meanwhile, Moriarty went into the bathroom to clean blood from his face. Realizing that he was struggling to breathe, he exited the bathroom to press a button on a callbox located in the common area. This action alerted correctional officers that an incident had occurred and a response team was sent to the cellblock. On appeal, defendant challenged: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction of falsifying physical evidence; (2) the trial court’s denial of his jury instruction interpreting language in RSA 641:6, I; (3) the trial court’s imposition of multiple sentences on the assault convictions; and (4) the trial court’s failure to sua sponte instruct the jury on the defense of mutual combat. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Woodbury" on Justia Law

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Defendant David Vincelette appealed a the Superior Court decision finding that he committed criminal contempt by violating a January 2016 trial court order that prohibited him from interfering with the Town of Hanover’s efforts to remove debris from a right of way and Town-owned nature preserve. The Town-owned nature preserve was accessed by a deeded right of way that crossed land where defendant resided. In May 2015, the trial court found that the defendant had “placed numerous objects,” including wood pallets, abandoned vehicles, boats, and appliances on the nature preserve and on the right of way such that the right of way was “narrow[ed] . . . to such a width that it is difficult for a vehicle to access the [T]own’s property.” Defendant argued “[t]he court erred by finding that the State presented sufficient evidence that [he] intentionally violated the court’s order.” Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Vincelette" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a superior court order that set aside a jury’s guilty verdict against defendant Jonathan Marden for one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault. The trial court concluded defendant’s trial counsel, who was not his appellate counsel, rendered ineffective assistance of counsel when he failed to object to the testimony of the State’s expert witness, Dr. Gwendolyn Gladstone, a physician specializing in the care of abused or neglected children. The trial court found that, even though Gladstone did not explicitly opine that the complainant had been sexually assaulted, her testimony ran afoul of New Hampshire's general prohibition against offering expert testimony "to prove that a particular child has been sexually abused." The State argued that, even if trial counsel’s conduct fell “below the range of reasonable professional assistance” when he failed to object to Gladstone’s testimony, there was no prejudice. The State argued Gladstone’s testimony was merely cumulative of the testimony by the complainant’s co-workers about the complainant’s emotional state immediately following the alleged assault. The State contended “Gladstone’s testimony simply established that the [complainant] was still having an emotional reaction to the event.” To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed, concluding Gladstone’s testimony and the inferences that could have been drawn from it — that she believed that the complainant had been sexually assaulted — were not cumulative of the other demeanor evidence because Gladstone, unlike the other trial witnesses, was recognized as an expert. Defense counsel’s failure to object to Gladstone’s testimony on New Hampshire v. Cressey grounds (137 N.H. 402 (1993)) cannot reasonably have been said to have been part of a trial strategy. Therefore, the Court concluded trial counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient, and affirmed the superior court's order. View "New Hampshire v. Marden" on Justia Law

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Defendant Owen Labrie was convicted by jury on three counts of sexual assault and one count of using computer services for a prohibited purpose. He appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel as to the computer services use charge. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed Labrie’s conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Labrie" on Justia Law

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Defendant Paul Spaulding appealed a superior court order that he be detained without bail pending resolution of charges against him. Defendant was charged with two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence, one count of felony reckless conduct, and one count felony criminal threatening. At the arraignment, he pled not guilty. The superior court found through clear and convincing evidence, preventative detention was warranted and ordered defendant be detained. Defendant argued on appeal that there was a lack of proof of clear and convincing evidence of danger. After review of the superior court record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred with the superior court's judgment and affirmed it. View "New Hampshire v. Spaulding" on Justia Law

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Defendant Laryssa Benner appealed a superior court decision imposing a deferred sentence. Defendant was originally sentenced to twelve months in the house of corrections for misdemeanor theft by deception. The sentence was deferred for two years with the trial court retaining jurisdiction up to and after the deferred period to impose or terminate the sentence. On appeal, defendant argued the procedures the trial court used in imposing her sentence violated her due process rights, and further erred in finding there was sufficient evidence she violated certain conditions of her deferred sentence. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "New Hampshire v. Benner" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial on stipulated facts, defendant Jean Claude Mfataneza was convicted of aggravated driving while intoxicated. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred in concluding that RSA 265-A:8 (2014) (amended 2016) required only that the Administrative License Suspension (ALS) warnings be reasonably conveyed by reasonable methods in order to satisfy the statute and be admissible at trial, rather than that the warnings be subjectively understood by the individual driver. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Mfataneza" on Justia Law

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Defendant Katlyn Gage Marin was convicted in a bench trial of the second degree murder of her three-year-old daughter, Brielle Gage. Before trial, she moved to suppress statements she made to the police prior to being advised of her Miranda rights. The pre-Miranda statements at issue consisted of three sets of statements: given at her home, in a police cruiser, and in a family waiting room at the police station - each of which contained a different version of the circumstances giving rise to Brielle’s fatal injuries. She also argued that other statements that she made after she had been advised of her Miranda rights should be suppressed because they were tainted by the illegally-obtained pre-Miranda statements. After concluding that defendant was not in custody until after she was advised of her Miranda rights, the trial court denied the defendant’s motion. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Marin" on Justia Law

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Defendant Katherine Saintil-Brown was convicted by jury for negligent homicide,criminal neglect of an elderly adult, and failure to report adult abuse. Defendant’s convictions were based upon her failure to call for help while her elderly mother, the victim, lay in her own waste on the floor of their shared home for multiple days. On appeal, defendant argued the evidence was insufficient for the jury to have convicted her of the three charges. She also argued the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the criminal neglect of an elderly adult charge and that this error required reversal of her conviction on that charge. As to the jury instruction issue, the State agreed the trial court’s instruction was erroneous and that the error was plain, but asserted the error did not require reversal. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire .v Saintil-Brown" on Justia Law