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.
Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 03:35
TILTON — The Shalimar Resort, which had been operated by the Spanos family for 31 years, has been sold to a couple from Vermont, Mike and Ragi Patel.
The sale was finalized on April 30 and was announced by Peter and Sharon Spanos, who said that the Patels own two hotels in in Bellows Falls, Vermont, the Yankee Hotel and a Rodeway Inn, and plan on opening an Indian-American restaurant at the Shalimar. The sale price was not disclosed.
''It's kind of ironic. The name Shalimar came from a combination of family names and we didn't know until recently that in the Indian language Shalimar means ''jewel'' said Peter Spanos, who says that the addition of an Indian restaurant to the Lakes Region dining scene is an exciting prospect.
He said that he came to work at the Shalimar when the property was bought by his aunt and uncle, Mary and George Spanos, in 1983. The couple had previously owned the Shangri-La Resort at the Weirs for many years and his family owned the Indian Head Resort in Lincoln.
The Spanos' sold the resort and restaurant to the Patels but retain ownership of waterfront property and cabins on Lake Winnisquam which are located on a parcel of land just across Rte. 3 from the Shalimar.
The resort is built on the site of the former Winnisquam House, which was owned by the Contiagiani family until sold to Sam Reddy, a New Hampshire businessman and state legislator from Hopkinton. It burned in the early 1970s and was rebuilt by Reddy in its current configuration.
Over the years the Shalimar became a popular destination for both tourists and locals and in recent years has been noted for its Sunday brunch, which was voted the most popular in the Lakes Region, and its Wednesday night all-you-can eat pasta events.
The Sapnos's said they are thankful for the local support the restaurant has always enjoyed. ''They became friends and family to us. We've always worked hard to give back to the local community,'' said Spanos.
They also are grateful to the loyal staff that has worked with them for many years.
''It was very touching when I spoke individually with each of our staff members to tell them that the Shalimar was being sold. They all cried and that touched me deeply,'' said Peter Spanos.
Sharon Spanos said that the couple are talking with their friends in the hospitality business to help find jobs for those who have decided to move on while many of the workers have been offered positions by the new owners.
She said the couple are planning to ''relax, play some golf and spend lots of time with our family'. It's a whole new lifestyle for us.''
They have a son who worked as bartender at the restaurant last summer and a daughter who worked in the dining room and said they will continue to live in Laconia and be a part of the community while working on plans to develop the waterfront property they still own on Lake Winnisquam.
Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 03:34
SANBORNTON — While voters will be going to the polls next week to weigh in on a number of zoning ordinance changes none have garnered more controversy or confusion than the two amendments that address workforce housing.
Workforce housing is defined by N.H. RSA as 674:58-61 as housing that is intended for sale and is affordable to a household with an income of no more than 100-percent of the median income for a 4-person household for the metropolitan area or county where there housing is located. The income statistic is one determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It's alternate definition is rental housing which is affordable to a household with with an income of no more than 60-percent of the median income for a family of three in the metropolitan area or county.
In 2008 and after a series of lawsuits, the state passed a Workforce Housing law that sets out the procedures and guidelines for municipal planning boards such that a community cannot use zoning ordinances to deny the construction of workforce housing.
The law stemmed from a Supreme Court ruling in 1991 that determined the town of Chester was too restrictive when its zoning ordinances allowed multi-family housing in two relatively small areas of town that comprised about 240 acres of the town's 1,600 acres.
The court said this "was too restrictive and not realistic," wrote Jim Rollins in a letter that appeared in the State Planning News in the August/September 1991 issue.
Sanbornton Planning Board member Richard Gardner said that since the law became effective in 2010, the board has been discussing if and how they should enact ordinances to address it.
He said when the board realized last year that there was workforce planning grant money available through the N.H. Community Planning Grant Program, the selectmen brought the grant for $28,075 with $7,019 to be an in-kind contribution on the part of the town to the 2013 Town Meeting. The warrant article had the recommendation of both the Selectmen and the Budget Committee and passed.
He said many think that the Planning Board only started preparing for workforce housing when it learned there was a grant.
"We've been talking about this for a couple of years now," he said.
Right now, said Gardner, Sanbornton allows for multi-family homes in the commercial district. If Article 6 passes, said Gardner, it would allow for multi-family homes in the general agricultural, general residence, and historical preservation areas of town as well as the commercial zoning districts.
He said this would make work-force housing allowable in about 50-percent of the town.
It will not allow multi-family housing in the forest conservation district or the recreation district – meaning along Lake Winnisquam and Hermit Lake.
Amendment 4, if passed, would define multi-family housing as housing with three but no more than five dwellings. Gardner said that at this point in time, any sized multi-family dwelling can be built in zones that allow multi-family dwellings. The change would be consistent with the state law.
Amendment 3 changes the definition of a cluster. Sanbornton rewards builders for keeping as much open space as possible in housing developments by allowing them an additional building lot if they keep 50-percent of their land as open space. Sanbornton has allowed cluster development in the commercial district for 14 years. Should Amendment 3 pass, a developer who builds workforce housing and builds according to cluster rules would get an additional unit on top of the bonus unit.
At a public hearing on March 20, Budget Committee member Earl Leighton asked who would oversee the open space in a workforce housing cluster development. Consultant Gerald Coogan said that it would be the Conservation Commission, the town, or a non-profit land trust. He said the common land could not be further sub-divided.
Some residents worried that what would be built as workforce housing could turn into low-income housing and overwhelm the schools, police and fire department. Supporters say this is unlikely.
Planning Board member Evelyn Auger wanted to know if the town passed all of these new ordinances if they could still withstand a lawsuit like the one that was filed in Chester.
She said she didn't know what the town's "fair-share" of workforce housing is, noting accurately that there is no determination of that percentage until a court decides it in the wake of a lawsuit.
Auger said her stake in all of this is to keep Sanbornton the rural community that it is now.
The recommended amendments passed by a 4-0 majority of the Planning Board. Auger abstained.
Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 03:38
LACONIA — An unnamed man was found laying in the bathroom of the Court Street Cumberland Farms Store yesterday at 3:30 p.m. suffering from what police think was a heroin overdose.
Police said that they found a spoon and a needle next to him but it appears he had injected all that he had.
Responding firefighters said they administered NARCAN to him and transported him to the hospital.
This most recent overdose highlights the dangers of a steady supply of cheap heroin in the Lakes Region and how it is taxing the resources of the community, including those of the police, the fire departments and Lakes Region General Hospital.
Two days ago, emergency responders from the Belmont Fire Department were able to save the life of a man who had overdosed on Brown Road. The man was taken to LRGH by ambulance but left on his own.
Patrick Stitt was charged by police with possession of heroin after they found him walking down Route 107. He appeared in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday and was ordered held on $2,000 cash only bail.
Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 03:30
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