Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Sam Harkinson, Previously employed as an Assistant County, Attorney, and as an insurance adjuster, now as an associate at Hoefle, Phoenix, Gormley & Roberts

No. 2019-06285

March 10, 2022

Affirmed

 

  • Whether a trial court abused its discretion in admitting certain hearsay evidence and issuing a false-exculpatory-statement jury instruction, and if so whether any such abuse presented reversible error.

 

The Defendant was convicted of first degree murder.  During the course of the underlying trial, the Defendant had objected to certain hearsay evidence being entered against him.  Specifically, the Defendant objected to statements that came from the victim’s grandmother approximately a day following the death of the victim.  The statements related to the physical condition of the victim’s body, and also that the Defendant had murdered the victim.  The Defendant objected that the statements were hearsay, but the trial court admitted them as excited utterances.

Following the holding in State v. Woods, 130 N.H. 721 (1988) the Court found that the grandmother’s should not have been treated as excited utterance given the time that had elapsed between the event that caused the statements, and when the statements were made.   The Court therefore concluded that the trial court had unsustainably exercised its discretion in admitting the statements.  However, the Court further concluded that any error was harmless error when it reviewed the full record of the evidence that was otherwise permissibly entered against the Defendant.

The Defendant had also appealed an objection to certain statements that were admitted by an investigator during redirect as hearsay.  The Court did not analyze the underlying issue relating the hearsay, instead concluding as it had before, that, assuming there was an error on the part of the trial court in admitting such evidence, it was harmless error when a review of the record was completed.

Finally, the Defendant appealed the trial court’s rejection of his version of a false-exculpatory-statement that the court issued, arguing that the trial court should issue his statement which not only applied to him as the accused, but also to other witnesses.  In rejecting the Defendant’s arguments, the Court reviewed prior precedent addressing similar appeals, and found that the Defendant’s argument here did not raise issues that would require revisiting its rulings.

 

The Office of Attorney General John M. Formella, Weston R. Sager, Assistant Attorney General on the brief and orally for the State of New Hampshire.  Office of the Appellate Defender, Deputy Chief Appellate Defender Stephanie Hausman for the Defendant.