LACONIA — Amy Lafond's attorney, Mark Sisti, yesterday argued in favor of her request yesterday for a 90-day extension to give him time to prepare for her defense at trial.
With about 15 members of Lilyanna Johnson's family and friends in the courtroom, Sisti asked Judge James O'Neill III to reconsider his previous ruling that scheduled jury selection for February 2.
"I can't give her any professional advice at this point," Sisti said, appealing directly to O'Neill as a judge who is also a former trial lawyer who has been involved with similar complex cases.
Sisti was hired in the beginning of December. In his first motion for an extension, he said he had a scheduling conflict with a different case. O'Neill ruled that wasn't enough for him to grant Sisti an extension under the new rules on extensions issued by Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau.
In terms of difficulty, Sisti described the case as an "8" out of "10", saying there are at least 100 hours of recorded evidence, accident reconstruction reports, as well as additional preparation time needed. He also said he may need to secure expert witness testimony.
Lafond faces numerous charges, including one count each of negligent and reckless homicide stemming from a car crash in April at the Messer Street bridge that claimed the life of 14-year-old Johnson and severely injured 14-year-old Allyssa Miner, both students at the nearby Middle School.
Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa C. Guldbrandsen said she wouldn't object to a 90-day extension.
"I do see my duty to ensure she gets a competent defense," said Guldbrandsen, agreeing that the case is complex and technical. "It's my duty to see she gets a fair trial."
She also said she wouldn't want to have a possible conviction challenged because of claim that Lafond was denied effective counsel.
When O'Neill asked her how the victims' families felt about an extension, Guldbrandsen said that they are "frustrated" and don't support any delays.
She said that in their minds, the incident occurred in April of 2012 and they are growing impatient.
She said that when Lafond was represented by the Public Defender's Office she was aware they were also likely to seek an extension.
Sisti assured O'Neill he would be ready in April to try the case, as did Guldbrandsen.
After yesterday's hearing, Guldbrandsen met briefly with the people who came to court to hear the oral argument. A few members of the family said they hadn't designated an official spokesperson and had no comments for the media at this time.
O'Neill is expected to rule on Sisti motion for reconsideration on Wednesday.