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Bar News - April 19, 2017


Supreme Court At-a-Glance

By:

March 2017

Criminal Law

State v. Kevin Lynch
No. 2015-038
March 10, 2017
Affirmed

  • Three issues presented, addressing custodial interrogations, hearsay exceptions, and double jeopardy

Defendant Kevin Lynch was convicted of misdemeanor simple assault following a jury trial. He appealed his convictions, arguing that 1) certain statements made during the course of a custodial interrogation should have been suppressed; and 2) that statements made by the child victim to her treating pediatrician should have been excluded as hearsay. The state also appealed a ruling that double jeopardy prohibited multiple convictions where multiple injuries flow from one act.

The defendant first argued that statements made to a police officer during a custodial interrogation should have been suppressed. Defendant argued that he invoked his right to counsel at one point during the interview, and the statements made thereafter should have been suppressed. The issue was raised prior to trial with the Court finding that the statements were admissible. The Court, in denying the defendant’s appeal on this issue, found that the defendant did not actually invoke his right to counsel. Further, the Court found that any argument that he had was cured by the officer asking specifically whether the defendant was invoking said right, and having the defendant continue to give incriminating statements.

Next, the defendant appealed the denial of a motion to exclude certain statements made by the child victim to her treating physician. At trial, the defendant argued that the statements were hearsay, outside of any exception. The state argued, and the Court found, that the statements were made for purposes of a medical diagnosis or treatment under NH Rules of Evidence, 803(4). On appeal, the Court found that the witness understood the purpose of making a statement to a treating physician, one whom the witness had seen on two separate prior occasions. Further, due to the nature of the question by the doctor – “…anything that [she] wanted to tell [Doctor] about?” – the Court found that the interaction was not solely to allow the doctor to testify at trial. The Court, in denying the defendant’s appeal on this issue, also found that the statements were otherwise trustworthy.

Finally, the Court denied the state’s cross-appeal on whether multiple charges, one for each separate injury for one act, were barred by double jeopardy. The Court, in applying the unit-of-prosecution test, found that the Legislature had intended a single prosecution for a single act.

Joseph A. Foster, Attorney General, Sean R. Locke, Assistant Attorney General, on brief and orally for the State. Stephanie Hausman, Deputy Chief Appellate Defender, on brief and orally for Mr. Kevin Lynch.


State v. Jessica Morrill
No. 2015-0377
Jan. 14, 2014
Reverse and remanded

  • Whether a police officer impermissibly and unconstitutionally extended and expanded a traffic stop when he did not have any specific reasonable suspicion of criminal activity; and a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence

Defendant Jessica Morrill appealed her conviction for possession of a controlled drug, and possession of a controlled drug with intent to sell. On appeal, she raised the issue of her motion to suppress drug evidence found in a van that was registered to her and in which she was a passenger. She also raised the issue of whether the state had sufficient evidence at the close of its case to pursue the indictments.

The Court, in reversing the trial court, found that the officer in this case had impermissibly and unconstitutionally extended and expanded the motor vehicle stop. The original premise for the stop had been to investigate a motor vehicle registration issue. Specifically, in this case, the Court found that the officer had failed to identify any other reasonable suspicion of other crimes, and that he had no ability to hold the car past the point of resolving the registration issue. Therefore, the evidence that was found in the search that resulted from the prolonged stop would be suppressed with any consent search argument as fruit of the poisoned tree.

With the first issue resolved, the Court then addressed the second issue raised by defendant as to whether the state had presented sufficient evidence to prove the charges in the indictments. The Court noted that it considered all the evidence presented at trial, even if it was now determined that the evidence should have been suppressed. Ultimately, the Court found that the evidence presented at trial was enough to show drug possession and possession with intent to sell, with the court referring to the cases that addressed the standards on both.

Having found that some of the evidence in support of the indictments also should have been suppressed, the Court ultimately reverse and remanded for purposes of a second trial.

Justice Gary Hicks filed a concurring opinion.

Joseph A. Foster, Attorney General, Danielle E. Horgan, Assistant Attorney General, on brief and orally for the State. Stephanie Hausman, Deputy Chief Appellate Defender, on the brief and orally for Ms. Jessica Morrill.


State v. Paul Santamaria
No. 2016-0176
March 10, 2017
Affirmed

  • Whether a writ of coram nobis is available to a defendant who could have pursued alternative post-conviction relief

Defendant Paul R. Santamaria appealed the trial court’s denial of his petition for a writ of coram nobis. The extraordinary writ was requested for purposes of vacating his 16-year-old conviction for first-degree assault. Defendant premised his request for the relief on the argument that he had ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

The NH Supreme Court began its discussion by acknowledging that the writ of coram nobis is available to defendants in New Hampshire. However, quickly following a review of English common law, the Court discussed how the writ has been treated by other state courts. Specifically, the Court discussed the wide availably of alternative post-conviction relief.

In affirming the trial court’s denial of defendant’s petition, the Court found that he had not availed himself to the other post-conviction relief that was readily available to him, including a motion for a new trial, or in a writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the denial of the petition.

Joseph A. Foster, Attorney General, Sean R. Locke, Assistant Attorney General, orally and on brief for the State. Philip H. Utter from Green & Utter, on brief and orally for Mr. Paul R. Santamaria.


Real Estate Law

Appeal of Kadle Properties Revocable Trust
No. 2016-0206
March 10, 2017
Affirmed

  • Whether a trust that owns, but rents out property used as a school satisfies the requirements to obtain an educational tax exemption

On appeal from a decision by the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA), the Kadle Properties Revocable Realty Trust appealed the denial of an educational tax exemption. In 2015 the City of Keene denied an educational tax exemption the trust had sought. The trust then appealed this denial to the BTLA and was also subsequently denied. This appeal followed.

After brief background, the NH Supreme Court Court found that the trust did not satisfy the requirements of RSA 72:23-m (2012). The Court found that because the trust rented the space that was being utilized as a school, it did not actually operate the school itself and was not able to claim the exemption. The Court disagreed with the trust’s arguments that the Court had addressed the issue of whether the school must own the property. Further, the Court also found that the trust and the school were not so closely related so as to become “one and the same” for purposes of determining whether an exemption should be granted.

Lastly, the Court was not persuaded by the fact that a BTLA form permitted either the owner or the “principal occupant” to file for a property tax exemption.

Daniel Kadle, by brief for Kadle Properties Revocable Realty Trust. Thomas P. Mullins, City Attorney, by memorandum of law for the City of Keene.

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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