LACONIA — Attorney Mark Sisti, who is defending Amy Lafond against charges that her reckless and negligent driving took the life of one teenage girl and injured another, has objected to the prosecution's attempt at introducing a computer-generated animation of the incident and the criminal record of Lafond's husband in evidence. He claims that the value of both as evidence is outweighed by their prejudicial impact on his client.
Lafond, 53, is charged with manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide (alternative theories) and second degree assault arising from the incident on April 19, 2013 on Messer Street that left Lilyanna Johnson dead and Allyssa Miner injured. She is also charged with several drug offenses and traffic violations.
Last month County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen asked the court to allow "computer-generated accident reconstruction animations" to be introduced. The animations, she said, were created by Carl Lakowicz of Northpoint Collision Consultants from measurements and data collected by the Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team and would offer a "visual illustration" of the sequence of events, including the collision, to supplement the testimony of expert witnesses. Altogether she asked to introduce eight animations, including three of the collision from different angles.
In objecting, Sisti argued that the animations "would not provide the jury with any evidence not already provided by the diagrams, measurements and testimony" of the witnesses who collected the data from which the animations were generated. He described any facts presented by the animations as "cumulative," that is, repetitious of prior evidence.
Sisti cited the rule of evidence that prescribes if the probative value, or capacity of the evidence to establish something important, is outweighed by "the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, or misleading the jury," it must be excluded. "There can be no other reason to show the animation except," he wrote, again citing precedent 'to induce a decision against the defendant on some improper basis, commonly one that is emotionally charged.'" He said there is no question but the animations would have an "undue influence on the jury's deliberations."
Furthermore, Sisti reminded the court that the United States Supreme Court has established a test to determine the relevance and reliability of "novel scientific evidence." The methodology must be tested, have undergone peer review and have an established error rate as well as be accepted by the scientific community. The state, he concluded, has not demonstrated that the animations satisfy these four criteria.
Anticipating that Marc Lafond, the defendant's husband, would appear as a hostile witness, Guldbrandsen asked the court to rule that his criminal record could be used to impeach his credibility should he testify on his wife's behalf. He pled guilty to two counts of possession of a narcotic in August, 2005, a month after being convicted of theft of services, a misdemeanor.
Sisti objected, noting Marc Lafond is not listed among the witnesses for the defense and while he is named as a witness for the state, Guldbrandsen has not sought to treat him as a hostile witness. He acknowledges that spouses may testify for or against each other, but refers to the rule of evidence that reads "neither shall be allowed to testify against the other as to any statement, conversation, letter or other communication made to the other or to another person, nor shall either be allowed in any case to testify as to any matter which in the opinion of the Court would lead to a violation of marital confidence."
In light of the limits on his testimony, Sisiti doubts that Marc Lafond is likely to testify to the state's advantage. Instead, he claims that the sole reason for the state to call him as a witness is "to make him look bad and somehow attribute that to Mrs. Lafond."
A hearing on these and other motions, including Sisti's requests to sever the drug and traffic charges from the manslaughter, negligent homicide and assault charges and to exclude the results of blood tests taken after the incident, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 14 will beheld on Thursday, May 22, beginning at 1:30 p.m.