Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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Defendant, David J. Widi, Jr. appealed a superior court order denying his petition for a writ of coram nobis. In February 2004, the defendant filed a notice of intent to plead guilty to a charge of misdemeanor reckless conduct in exchange for a negotiated sentence. Almost four years later, defendant was charged with the federal offense of being a felon in possession of a firearm, with his felony reckless conduct conviction serving as the predicate felony. In 2010, the defendant filed in the trial court a “Motion to Correct the Record.” In that motion, the defendant asserted that it “ha[d] recently come to [his] attention that the [m]ittimus” for his conviction reflected that he was convicted of felony reckless conduct. He further asserted that a felony indictment for reckless conduct — instead of a misdemeanor information for reckless conduct - “was erroneously submitted at sentencing . . . causing the misclassification of [his] conviction in the [m]ittimus.” Consequently, he requested that the mittimus for his reckless conduct conviction be “correct[ed]” to reflect that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct, not felony reckless conduct. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion. In 2014, defendant filed this petition for a writ of coram nobis. He argued that the trial court erred by denying his petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held that the common law writ of coram nobis existed in New Hampshire. This case presented the distinct issue of whether a trial court may deny a defendant’s petition for a writ of coram nobis without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Court held that a trial court may deny a petition for a writ of coram nobis without holding an evidentiary hearing if the record clearly demonstrates that the defendant is not entitled to coram nobis relief. Here, because the record clearly demonstrates that no sound reason exists for the defendant’s failure to seek earlier relief, the trial court did not err when it denied the defendant’s petition without a hearing. View "New Hampshire v. Widi" on Justia Law

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Defendant Abraham DePaula appealed after he was convicted by jury on one count of burglary, five counts of theft by unauthorized taking, and two counts of conspiracy to commit theft by unauthorized taking. He argued the trial court erred when it: (1) ruled that his testimony opened the door to evidence of his alleged involvement in an unrelated homicide; (2) denied his motion in limine to preclude the State from introducing testimony regarding physical and sexual assaults that occurred during the burglary; (3) allowed the State to introduce lay testimony from custodians of cellular telephone records regarding the range of cell towers; and (4) sentenced the defendant on both conspiracy to commit theft convictions. The State conceded that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, it was plain error for the trial court to sentence the defendant on both conspiracy convictions. Accordingly, the New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated defendant’s conviction on one of the conspiracy indictments, but affirmed in all other respects. View "New Hampshire v. DePaula" on Justia Law

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Defendant Peggy Starr appealed her conviction on one count of second degree assault, as a lesser included offense of first degree assault. In 2010, at six and one-half years of age, D.A. was hospitalized at a weight of just 23.4 pounds. At the time of his hospitalization, he suffered developmental delays, was failing to gain weight, and was short for his age. Ultimately, D.A. was diagnosed with failure to thrive due to malnutrition and psychosocial dwarfism. D.A. had been in the care of the defendant and her daughter, Christina Thomas. In addition to administering physical discipline, she would control his eating to modify his behavior. She took food away from him to punish him even after one of his treatment providers instructed that she not do so. Although defendant knew that D.A. was not growing taller, was not gaining weight, and was developmentally delayed, she told authorities at D.A.’s school that he was not to be given an extra lunch if he ate his packed lunch on the way to school, and she continued to withhold food from him as punishment. Within ten months of D.A.’s removal from the care of defendant and Thomas, his weight nearly doubled. Defendant was charged with first degree assault for knowingly causing serious bodily injury to D.A. by causing his “failure to thrive” condition by failing to provide him with proper nutrition. She moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the first degree assault statute did not impose criminal liability upon defendants for omissions. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that “first degree assault as charged in this case may be established by conduct constituting a voluntary act or a voluntary omission.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. View "New Hampshire v. Starr" on Justia Law

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Because the issuance of extraterritorial search warrants is not expressly prohibited by the legislature, and because the amicus did not identify any constitutional limitations applicable to these facts, the Court held that the circuit court would not have exceeded its territorial jurisdiction by issuing the search warrant at issue here. In February 2016, an Ashland police officer applied for a search warrant for certain cellular telephone records at an AT&T facility in Florida. New Hampshire sought these records in connection with a criminal investigation being conducted by the Ashland Police Department. Citing the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s decision in New Hampshire v. Mello, 162 N.H. 115 (2011), the circuit court denied the State’s application, reasoning that it “ha[d] no authority to issue a warrant against a foreign corporation.” Seeking reconsideration, the State argued that “[u]nder Florida law, [AT&T] is required to treat an out-of-state subpoena or warrant as if it were issued by a Florida Court.” It also argued, among other things, that our decision in Mello “d[id] not preclude the issuance of the warrant.” The circuit court denied the State’s renewed application, again relying upon “Mello.” The Supreme Court determined that “Mello” was not controlling here. Now, as a matter of first impression, the Court considered the issue of whether the circuit court would have exceeded the scope of its territorial jurisdiction by issuing an extraterritorial search warrant, specifically, a warrant authorizing the search and seizure of an electronic communication service provider’s records in Florida. The Court reversed. View "In re Search Warrant for Records From AT&T" on Justia Law

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The general rule is that evidence must be excluded if it is discovered as a result of police misconduct. “The inevitable discovery doctrine, with its distinct requirements, is in reality an extrapolation from the independent source doctrine: Since the tainted evidence would be admissible if in fact discovered through an independent source, it should be admissible if it inevitably would have been discovered.” Defendant Scott Robinson appealed his convictions for armed robbery and first degree assault. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed his convictions, holding that the trial court erred in concluding that exigent circumstances permitted the warrantless entry by police into his apartment. Upon remand, defendant again moved to suppress, inter alia, physical evidence obtained “from the time of the warrantless entry into his apartment” and the fruits thereof. The trial court denied his request to suppress the physical evidence, after finding that it was properly seized during a subsequent search pursuant to a valid warrant. Defendant was convicted following a subsequent jury trial. In this appeal, defendant argued: (1) the trial court erred by considering, upon remand, the doctrines of independent source and inevitable discovery; (2) that his trial counsel was ineffective because she did not argue that the doctrines of law of the case and waiver barred the State from raising the independent source and inevitable discovery arguments in the trial court following remand; and (3) that, even if the trial court did not err in considering the State’s arguments, remand is necessary to address certain factual issues. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kyree Rice appealed his convictions for one count of attempted murder, and two counts of first degree assault. He argued the superior court erred by not instructing the jury on the principle that the “act of producing or displaying a weapon shall constitute non-deadly force,” and in prohibiting cross-examination of the victim about the victim’s use of cocaine and marijuana on the night in question. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed the court erred in failing to give the requested jury instruction, it reversed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Rice" on Justia Law

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Defendant Max Wilson was convicted by jury on four counts of violating RSA 632-A:10 (2016), which prohibited persons convicted of certain offenses from providing child care services. At issue was whether “help[ing the victim] out” and “do[ing] some [Bible] devotions with [the victim] and possibly help him with his schooling” were “child care services” as contemplated by the statute. According to her testimony, the victim’s mother noticed the victim “had an uneasiness that [she] could not put [her] finger on” regarding defendant’s and the victim’s relationship. The victim’s mother shared her concerns with her two older daughters; one of them searched defendant’s background on her computer and discovered that he was a registered sex offender. The victim’s father then terminated defendant’s contact with the victim. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred in: (1) denying his motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence; (2) denying his motion to dismiss on grounds that “RSA 632-A:10, I, is void for vagueness, either facially or as applied”; and (3) “entering multiple convictions or imposing multiple punishments.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence and on the alternative ground that RSA 632-A:10, I, was unconstitutionally vague, reversed its order on defendant’s double jeopardy motion, and remanded to the trial court with instructions to vacate three of defendant’s convictions and resulting sentences. View "New Hampshire v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jason Czekalski appealed his convictions on two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA), and one count of pattern AFSA. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence related to a January 2013 telephone call between the defendant and the victim, recorded by the police with the victim’s consent. He claimed suppression was warranted because the recording was not “done in such way as [would] protect the recording from editing or other alterations.” In a supplemental brief, defendant argued the trial court also erred when it denied his motion to continue the trial, and under the “plain error” rule, the trial court should have dismissed two of his indictments because they were defective and the trial court erred when it allowed a juror to be seated who allegedly failed to complete a juror questionnaire. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Czekalski" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jessica Morrill appealed her conviction by jury on three counts of possession of a controlled drug (oxycodone, alprazolam, and lisdexamfetamine), and one count of possession of a controlled drug with intent to sell or distribute (cocaine). On appeal, defendant did not dispute that the arresting police officer had a reasonable, articulable suspicion for the initial stop of her vehicle. Instead, she argued that the trial court erred in finding that the requirements of "New Hampshire v. McKinnon-Andrews" (151 N.H. 19 (2004)) for permissibly expanding the initial scope of the stop had been met. The Supreme Court agreed with defendant after its review of the trial court record, reversed defendant's convictions and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Morrill" on Justia Law

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Defendant Paul Santamaria appealed a superior court order dismissing his petition for a writ of coram nobis. In 1998, defendant was convicted of first degree assault. His trial counsel filed a motion to set aside the verdict, which the court denied. Subsequently, the court sentenced the defendant to incarceration for twelve months. Defendant’s trial counsel withdrew from the case and, through appellate counsel, defendant appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence at trial and the trial court’s decision to permit a police officer to testify as an expert witness. At that time, the Court affirmed his conviction. On December 30, 2014, defendant filed a petition for a writ of coram nobis seeking to have his conviction vacated for ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The trial court denied defendant’s petition, ruling that he was procedurally barred because he "could have, and should have, raised this claim earlier either on direct appeal, in a motion for a new trial, or in a habeas corpus petition," and because he failed to show "sound reasons" for failing to seek proper relief earlier. A common threshold requirement to bringing a petition for a writ of coram nobis is that "sound reasons exist[] for fail[ing] to seek appropriate earlier relief." Here, the Supreme Court found defendant failed to meet that requirement. Defendant argued he could not have brought his ineffective assistance claim earlier in a direct appeal, a motion for a new trial, or a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. "Even if we assume without deciding that the defendant’s claim could not have been brought in a direct appeal, we conclude that he could have brought his claim in a motion for a new trial or a petition for a writ of habeas corpus." View "New Hampshire v. Santamaria" on Justia Law