By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Deputy Belknap County Attorney Carley Ahern argued her last criminal case in Laconia on Tuesday.
Following nine years as one of Belknap County's top prosecutors, she is leaving to join the staff of Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray.
Leaving is bittersweet for Ahern. While as a resident of Merrimack County she won't pine for the daily
commute to Laconia, she will miss presiding Judge James O'Neill.
After winning her first jury verdict on a felony drug possession charge, Ahern asked O'Neill to impose a state prison sentence, arguing that it was warranted given the facts of the case. But after seeing both the defendant's children and other family members in tears, Ahern said, she couldn't help but feel empathy.
Judge O'Neill imposed a state prison sentence and in a private sidebar at the bench counseled Ahern to "keep her shield up," advice she took to heart to distance herself from the raw emotion of criminal cases.
The job is not for the weak of heart or the thin-skinned.
"You feel it when you hear their stories and you try and do the best you can," she said.
One case that sticks in her memory is that of Michael Carpenter Noucas, a Meredith man who was convicted of being an accomplice to armed robbery during which his partner was killed. At trial, in October 2011, jurors heard that Noucas and Robert Hart had tried to rob David Rivera of Brockton, Massachusetts, of cocaine and cash while
he was staying at the Meredith duplex rented by Noucas' girlfriend.
According to testimony, Noucas, then 27, and Hart ended up fighting for their lives. Hart, 47, was killed, stabbed a dozen times and bludgeoned with a metal softball bat. Noucas suffered life-threatening injuries, including being stabbed through the neck, front to back, a wound that pierced his esophagus.
The jury returned a guilty verdict and Noucas was sentenced to 7 1/2 to 15 years in state prison.
"There was a lot of evidence in that case and it made me realize that I was really capable," Ahern said.
With her new position in Merrimack County, Ahern said, she'll have to learn how to work with three different judges instead of one, plus get used to different procedures that come with a larger case load and a much bigger staff.
While used to collaborating with three assistant prosecutors plus County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen in Belknap County, her new position will see her working with 13 assistant prosecutors and one deputy county attorney.
"I almost feel like I'm growing up," Ahern said of her new position, which she expects will help her continue to develop as a criminal attorney.
"Getting to know the community here in Belknap County, law enforcement and the other groups and people we work with like the Greater Lakes Region Child Advocacy Center and the Sexual Assault Resource Team. They've just been wonderful," she said.
Deputy Belknap County Attorney Carley Ahern, seen here in historic courtroom one at the Belknap County Superior Courthouse, has tendered her resignation to become a prosecutor in Merrimack County. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)