July 11, 2019
- Issue: Whether the evidence was sufficient to convict the defendant of falsifying physical evidence.
- Issue: Whether the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s jury instructing interpreting language in RSA 641:6, I.
- Issue: Whether the trial court erred in imposing multiple sentences for assault.
- Issue: Whether the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury sua sponte on the defense of mutual combat.
The defendant, already in jail, was convicted of three counts of assault for attacking another inmate and one count of falsifying physical evidence for wiping blood off the floor. He appealed his concurrent sentences for falsifying evidence and the two counts of assault. The Court disagrees with the defendant that the evidence at trial was insufficient to find that he “impaired the verity or availability of the blood in an investigation” and reviewed the circumstantial evidence in the light most favorable to the State and in context with all evidence.
The Court found there was sufficient evidence to determine that the witness’ testimony is credible, because they can accept or reject parts of the witness’s testimony. Based on the totality of the evidence, the Court found that there was sufficient evidence to conclude the defendant knew or believed that an investigation was pending when he wiped the blood up. Finally, the Court found the testimony regarding the procedures for removing blood as part of an investigation sufficient to “exclude all reasonable exclusions” that it was done to “impair its verity or availability in an impending investigation.”
Examining the statute’s wording, the Court found the trial court did not err in failing to instruct the jury on the definition of “official investigation.” Construing the language of the statute according to its “plain and ordinary meaning,” the Court found that investigation was not meant to be qualified. Therefore, the trial court did not err in failing to instruct the jury.
Next, the Court reviews whether the trial court erred in imposing multiple sentences for two charges. The Court reviewed the allegation of double jeopardy under State and Federal Constitution. The Court found the facts of each assault were dissimilar and the jury was provided with necessary evidence and a jury instruction that the Court presumes the jury followed.
Finally, the Court finds that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding in favor of a mutual combat defense and a new trial. The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions and sentences. While the two combatants exchanged blows, there was no evidence that would support a rational finding for a defense because there was no express or implied agreement to voluntarily engage in mutual combat.
Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Sean R. Locke, assistance attorney general on the brief and orally) for the State. Stephanie Hausman, deputy chief appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief and orally for the defendant.