Judge closes hearing on enhanced security measures for Raymond child rape trial
BRENTWOOD — A judge closed a hearing to the public on Wednesday to consider what security measures may be taken during the upcoming trial of a state prison inmate charged with sexually assaulting a 7-year-old Raymond girl in 2002.
Patrick Eschenbrenner, 51, formerly of Raymond, heads to trial Monday on six counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault for allegedly abusing the girl repeatedly between 2002 and 2007.
Eschenbrenner’s trial on April 8 was delayed after he attempted suicide at the state prison. Eschenbrenner — who has been held in the state’s Secured Psychiatric Unit since the suicide attempt — did not attend Wednesday’s hearing. He participated in the hearing at Rockingham County Superior Court via speakerphone.
Eschenbrenner is serving a 20- to 40- year state prison sentence on a 2008 sexual assault conviction involving a young girl.
Judge N. William Delker decided to close the hearing after public defender Brett Newkirk cited media coverage published earlier in the week about Wednesday’s hearing.
Newkirk said that further public exposure about the subject could prejudice his client’s right to a fair trial.
In an order issued last Friday, Delker asked to meet with representatives from the sheriff’s department, the county jail and state prison about Eschenbrenner’s purported desire to harm himself, and possibly someone else in the process.
Eschenbrenner was described as “highly suicidal” by his lawyer, according to the court order.
Newkirk argued to close the hearing. Delker spoke to Newkirk and Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard for several minutes at the bench at the beginning of the hearing.
The judge announced his decision to close the hearing a short time later.
He concluded the hearing had to be closed to protect Eschenbrenner’s right to a fair trial and so that there could be a fuller discussion about possible security measures that may be taken during the trial.
Before the hearing was closed, Newkirk said he discussed with Eschenbrenner a possible motion to ask the judge to recuse himself from the case because of a relationship he has with the prison’s warden. Delker was a prosecutor with the state Attorney General’s Office prior to being nominated to the bench in June 2011.
Eschenbrenner decided he did not want to pursue a request to have Delker recuse himself, according to Newkirk.
Jury selection is expected to begin on Monday.