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State v. Ramsey

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

January 28, 2014

The State of New Hampshire
v.
William Ramsey

Argued November 7, 2013

Editorial Note:

Under New Hampshire procedural rule this decision is subject to motion for rehearing, as well as formal revision before publication in the New Hampshire reports.

Joseph A. Foster, attorney general ( Nicholas Cort, assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.

Thomas Barnard, assistant appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief and orally, for the defendant.

DALIANIS, C.J. HICKS, CONBOY, LYNN and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.

OPINION

Page 176

Dalianis, C.J.

The defendant, William Ramsey, appeals his convictions of second degree assault, see RSA 631:2, I(c) (2007), reckless conduct with a deadly weapon, see RSA 631:3 (2007), kidnapping, see RSA 633:1, I(c) (2007), and criminal threatening, see RSA 631:4 (2007), following a jury trial in Superior Court ( Houran, J.). He argues that the trial court erred by: (1) denying his request to cross-examine the victim about an allegedly false statement she made on her 2010 application to renew her driver's

Page 177

license; (2) allowing the State to introduce evidence that he treated the victim's dog well; and (3) imposing consecutive sentences for second degree assault and reckless conduct with a deadly weapon. We affirm.

The jury could have found the following facts. The defendant and the victim began dating in June 2010. On December 13, 2010, they were at his apartment where he had cooked dinner for her. After they quarreled, the victim announced that she was " just going to go home." While she was in the bathroom changing, she heard the defendant say, " You're not F'ing going anywhere" and then punch a wall. He came into the bathroom and grabbed the victim by the throat. The victim lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, she was in the bathtub, and the defendant was on top of her, strangling and beating her " really hard" with a curling iron, saying that he was going to kill her. The victim saw the curling iron " coming right at [her]" as the defendant then " shoved [it] inside of [her] throat," causing her to choke. She again lost consciousness, and when she regained it, she was in the kitchen, trying to scream for help, although she was only able to do so " very quietly." Eight days later, after the victim had explained that she no longer desired contact with the defendant because he frightened her, he sent her a text message that said: " Not talking was part of our problem. Should have finished what I started last week."

On appeal, the defendant first argues that the trial court violated New Hampshire Rules of Evidence 403 and 608(b) and the Confrontation Clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions, see N.H. Const. pt. I, art. 15; U.S. Const. amends. VI, XIV, by precluding him from cross-examining the victim about an allegedly false statement she made on a 2010 application to renew her driver's license. The State contends that any error was harmless. For the purposes of this appeal, we assume, without deciding, that the trial court erred, and we agree with the State that any error was harmless. See State v. Hernandez, 159 N.H. 394, 401-02, 986 A.2d 480 (2009) (applying harmless error review to admission of evidence in violation of State and Federal Confrontation Clauses).

" An error is harmless if we can say beyond a reasonable doubt that it did not affect the verdict." State v. Beede, 156 N.H. 102, 109, 931 A.2d 1258 (2007). " The State bears the burden of proving that an error is harmless." Id. " The evaluation of whether the State has met its burden involves consideration of the alternative evidence presented at trial and the character of the contested evidence." Id. " An error may be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt if the alternative evidence of the defendant's guilt is of an overwhelming nature, quantity or weight, and if the contested ...


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