Lawyers argue about admissibility of evidence on off day for Eric Grant trial

LACONIA — Attorneys representing the Belknap County prosecutor and Eric Grant, who is on trial for aggravated felonious sexual assault, met briefly in a motions hearing yesterday to argue whether or not a judge should allow evidence that the alleged victim was harming herself.

Grant is on trial for for allegedly digitally penetrating the girl, 10 at the time, at a 2006 New Year's Eve party at his house. The girl made her accusations during a therapy session in April of 2012, six years later. She and her immediate family live in California.

At the time of the alleged assault, Grant was married to the girl's mother's sister and they lived in Gilford. The girl and her family were visiting the area.

Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern had asked the judge on Thursday to allow evidence of self-mutilation after the victim mentioned it while testifying on the first day of Grant's trial.

Ahern said yesterday she has no intention of using evidence of the girl's self-mutilation as evidence of rape. However, she does want to use to illustrate to the jury the girl's state of mind.

She said once the girl's mother knew she was no longer self-harming, the girl started smoking pot. Ahern said it's an attempt by the state to show the girl was "struggling."

Emily McLaughlin, who is defending Grant, has objected to admitting the self-harming for a number of reasons. She said yesterday that if Ahern is not eliciting the girl's self-harming as evidence then she has contradicted what she told the court in a hearing on Thursday.

"I thought long and hard about how to defend this case," McLaughlin said to Judge James O'Neill, arguing yesterday that self-harming testimony would entail the use of expert witnesses and she was assured before the trial that Ahern would not be presenting any expert testimony nor would she need to prepare for it.

She also filed a motion requesting O'Neill stops Belknap County Deputy Sheriff Judy Estes from presenting any expert testimony. Estes investigated the case of behalf of the sheriff's department and is scheduled to testify today.

Ahern said she didn't object and was only going to elicit testimony from Estes about her investigation of the case and not as an "expert," presumably of rape or any psychological aftermath of rape.

McLaughlin also requested that the most recent written motions and their written responses be sealed — meaning only the attorneys and the judge and his clerks have access to them.

Ahern said she has no objections so O'Neill granted McLaughlin's motion, although he noted most of the recent revelations have been made in open testimony.

O'Neill said he would issue his final ruling on whether or not the self-mutilation as well as two family pictures apparently showing the girl and Grant together on two separate vacations after the alleged rape can be admitted.

McLaughlin wanted the two pictures entered as evidence — meaning the jury would be able to see them. Ahern has objected because she said they are two moments in time and are not reflective of the overall feelings of the girl toward her uncle.

During testimony last week, the alleged victim, her mother and her step-father all testified that after the alleged assault on New Year's Eve of 2006 she didn't want to be around Grant.

He mother testified that she forced the girl to be nice when Grant and he and his family visited them in California the next year and that she made her go to Jamaica on a family trip in 2011.

No jurors were present for Thursday's argument nor were they present yesterday. Testimony is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. this morning.