By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
TILTON — A woman who had been identified as a key witness against a Northfield man accused of selling heroin/fentanyl to a young man who died, spent the weekend in the Belknap County House of Corrections but has since been released.
With a final pre-trial hearing scheduled for Sept. 6, the location and availability of Teanna Bryson, and whether she will be a witness for the state, has been one critical piece of the state's case. Bryson is represented by an attorney.
She has twice been scheduled for hearings regarding her Fifth Amendment Rights against self-incrimination and has failed to appear for either one. She has a third hearing schedule on the same date as the pre-trial.
According to police affidavits, Bryson knew 21-year-old victim Seth Tilton-Fogg while they were in high school and, as Watson's girlfriend, allegedly reached out to him when she learned he was using drugs.
Tilton-Fogg died of overdose on April 2, 2015. Watson was arrested on May 8, 2015, and was charged with selling him the fentanyl police say killed him and one count of possession of heroin/fentanyl.
Watson's attorney, Mark Sisti, has largely based his defense on two points: the first is that Tilton Police didn't properly warn Watson of his rights against self-incrimination when he was first arrested. The second has been the unavailability of Bryson.
As to the first, following a hearing on July 19, Belknap County Superior Court Presiding Justice James O'Neill ruled that police had properly read Watson his Miranda rights at the time of his arrest so any statements he made to them during the subsequent interview can be heard by a jury.
As to Bryson, Deputy Belknap County Attorney Carley Ahern said Monday she knew Bryson was in jail and has issued an subpoena for her appearance on Sept. 6. Ahern declined to comment on the possibility of granting her immunity for her testimony or of petitioning the court for a material witness order, which is a determination by a judge that she can be held pending her appearance or sworn deposition if there is reason to believe she won't appear.
"I'm not worried," Ahern said, saying she has been in constant contact with the Tilton Police.
While Sisti has appealed O'Neill's ruling that Watson's statements can be presented to the jury, he has filed a motion to mitigate them in the event he loses the appeal.
During the motion hearing, the entire 30-minute police interview was played and Sisti claims that police made "numerous inflammatory statements" to Watson during the exchange.
Sisti claims police indicated that Watson was "cold-hearted and lacks remorse." He said police drew a number of conclusions during their interview that are more "prejudicial than probative," or more inflammatory than evidence-based.
He has asked that none of those statements, including police questions about what Watson would say to Tilton-Fogg's parents, should be presented to the jury.
"None of these comments made by police during the course of the interrogation of Mr. Watson are relevant and can only cause the defendant to be looked upon as evil, cold-hearted and immoral," Sisti wrote.
Jury selection is scheduled for Sept. 12.
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