Defense raises issue of competence for homicide at mental health group home

LACONIA — The probable cause hearing for the man accused of strangling another man who lived in the same mental health support home has been continued while his defense counsel raises the issue of his competency to face charges
Kasey Riley, 19, formerly of 24 McGrath St. is charged with one count of second-degree murder for recklessly and with extreme indifference causing the June 10 death of 27-year-old Zachary March.
Formerly scheduled for this afternoon in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, this is the second time Riley's probable cause hearing has been continued. His first hearing was scheduled for June 18 but was delayed when his former public defender, Jesse Friedman, said he needed more time to review the affidavits compiled by the office of the N.H. Attorney General.
The affidavits, which delineate the reason police believe they had probable cause to arrest Riley and charge him with the March's murder, were sealed by Judge Jim Carroll at the request of the state on June 11, the one time Riley has appeared in court.
The affidavits were also initially sealed from the defense but were released to them two days later with the caveat that only the defense team could look at them and their contents were not to be revealed.
The Daily Sun learned Monday that Friedman is no longer representing Riley and his case has been taken over by an attorney from the Concord Public Defenders Office.
In related news, Carroll also denied a motion filed by the Concord Monitor on June 11 to release the arrest affidavit.
In his one page ruling, Carroll agreed that the First Amendment right of access to public documents is a burden of proof the state must overcome, but in this case there are judicially-accepted exceptions that allow courts to seal the affidavits until after a grand jury reviews the case.
"Though no objection was filed from (Riley), the court believes that the maintenance of the seal of the subject documents preserves the rights of the defendant to a fair grand jury proceeding, "Carroll wrote. "The court sets the seal to terminate upon the date of any return of a true bill of indictment by the Belknap County Grand Jury.
State prosecutors argued for the documents to remain sealed because, despite Riley's arrest, they are still investigating the case and the "release of this information would undoubtedly compromise the ongoing investigation and cause the public release of "facts that are truly know only to a few individuals..."
The state also argued that some of those "few" could flee the jurisdiction or "negatively impact the investigation and grand jury process."
Grand jury proceeding are secret. The next Belknap County Grand Jury is scheduled to meet on July 11 but it isn't known if Riley's case will be brought before it.
The state argued that "intense media scrutiny can thwart the grand jury's ability to investigate criminal activity" and that "witnesses who are subject to media scrutiny may be reluctant to come forward or attempt to avoid grand jury process in order to stay out of the media spotlight."
To date, other than to state that March's death was by strangulation, that Riley has been charged, and there were two other people in the home the morning of the murder, the state has released no other information.