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State v. Edic

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

January 31, 2017

THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
v.
WILLIAM EDIC

          Argued: September 14, 2016

         Merrimack

          Joseph A. Foster, attorney general (Peter Hinckley, senior assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.

          Christopher M. Johnson, chief appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief and orally, for the defendant.

          HICKS, J.

         The defendant, William Edic, appeals his conviction, following a jury trial in Superior Court (McNamara, J.), on one count of second degree murder and one count of falsifying physical evidence. See RSA 630:1-b, I(b) (2016); RSA 641:6, I (2016). On appeal, the defendant challenges various evidentiary rulings made at trial. We affirm.

         The record supports the following facts. The charges against the defendant stem from events occurring on July 26, 2010, at the New Hampshire State Prison where the defendant and the victim were then incarcerated. The second degree murder indictment alleged that the defendant, acting in concert with and aided by another inmate, Thomas Milton, "recklessly cause[d] the death of [the victim] under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life by striking [the victim] repeatedly in the head and face areas." The falsifying physical evidence indictment alleged that the defendant, acting in concert with and aided by Milton and/or others, "believing that an official law enforcement investigation into the . . . attack on [the victim] was about to be instituted, destroyed, concealed, and/or removed items, to wit, blood evidence and cleaning materials, including towels and similar cloths, with a purpose to impair their availability in such investigation." After a trial, the jury found the defendant guilty on both counts.

         On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in prohibiting him from: (1) introducing three audio recordings of telephone calls made by other inmates at the New Hampshire State Prison; (2) questioning another inmate about that inmate's prison disciplinary history; and (3) calling certain correctional officers to testify at trial. The defendant asserts that the trial court erroneously relied upon New Hampshire Rule of Evidence 608(b) in excluding the three audio recordings, and that the exclusion of the recordings violated his state and federal constitutional rights to due process, confrontation, and to present all proofs favorable. See N.H. CONST. pt. I, art. 15; U.S. CONST. amends. V, VI, XIV. As to the other inmate's prison disciplinary history, the defendant challenges the trial court's rulings that the inmate's disciplinary history was beyond the scope of redirect examination, and that the inmate did not open the door to his disciplinary record. With respect to the correctional officers' testimony, the defendant contends that the trial court misapplied Rule 608(b) in excluding the officers' testimony, and, alternatively, that the State opened the door to it.

         As an initial matter, the State asserts that a number of the defendant's arguments are not preserved. Specifically, the State argues that: (1) the defendant's Rule 608(b) argument is not preserved as it relates to the first two audio recordings; (2) the defendant's constitutional arguments relating to the recordings are not preserved; and (3) the defendant's Rule 608(b) argument is not preserved as it relates to the correctional officers' testimony.

         "The general rule in this jurisdiction is that a contemporaneous and specific objection is required to preserve an issue for appellate review." State v. Blackmer, 149 N.H. 47, 48 (2003) (quotation omitted). "This rule, which is based on common sense and judicial economy, recognizes that trial forums should have an opportunity to rule on issues and to correct errors before they are presented to the appellate court." Id. (quotation omitted).

         Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that the defendant failed to preserve the following arguments: (1) his argument that the trial court erroneously applied Rule 608(b) to preclude him from introducing the second recording; (2) his constitutional arguments relating to the first and second recordings; and (3) his due process argument relating to the third recording. Because the record demonstrates that the defendant did not raise these arguments in the trial court, they are not preserved for our review. We, accordingly, decline to consider these arguments in the first instance on appeal. See id.; see also State v. Alexander, 143 N.H. 216, 220 (1998) (determining that defendant's constitutional argument not preserved for appellate review where defendant did not specifically assert constitutional challenge before trial court).

         We conclude that the defendant's remaining arguments are preserved, and consider the following issues in turn: (1) the defendant's evidentiary arguments relating to the third audio recording; (2) the defendant's argument that exclusion of the third recording violated his state and federal constitutional rights to confrontation and to present all proofs favorable; and (3) collectively, the defendant's evidentiary arguments relating to the exclusion of the first recording, the limitation of cross-examination of an inmate about his prison disciplinary history, and the exclusion of the correctional officers' testimony.

         I. Exclusion of Third Recording - Evidentiary Argument

         The third audio recording is of a conversation between State witness William Morel, an inmate at the New Hampshire State Prison whose testimony implicated the defendant in the July 26, 2010 incident, and an investigator. The defendant sought to admit this recording at trial to demonstrate that Morel received a benefit-specifically, a reduction in his inmate classification-in exchange for providing ...


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