Information given to three men convicted in unrelated murders between 1987 and 1994 may open the door for them to seek new trials.
The men have little in common except they were found guilty of Nashua killings and one of the witnesses who testified against them was John Seusing, a police officer who had been disciplined for lying to his superiors once in the mid-1980s. None of the men had been informed of the potential credibility issue before trial, as required, according to Associate Attorney General Jane Young.
Seusing is now Nashua's police chief. Commenting for a related story last month, Young said Seusing has had a "stellar'' career and she would not hesitate to call him to the stand to testify in any case. "This incident happened a quarter of a century ago,'' Young said.
The inmates' lawyers now have been notified, along with the families of the murder victims, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin.
On Friday, Strelzin identified the three homicide convicts as Eduardo Lopez Jr., who has been incarcerated since 1991; Timothy Brown, who has been in prison since 1987, and Ronald Schultz, locked up since 1994.
Concord attorney Jim Moir, an expert on the highly secretive police personnel discipline disclosures known as Laurie issues, said he believes the men will ask the court to grant them each a new trial.
"They now will have the opportunity to move to have a new trial," Moir said, adding the process is likely to be complicated and expensive.
Moir expects they will each file a motion to set aside the verdict, but there are hurdles to clear and no guarantee of a new trial for any of them, Moir said.
"The defendants basically have to establish that the failure to provide this evidence was so important that the integrity of the trial was undermined and the verdict suspect," Moir said.
Lopez, 39, was convicted of the 1991 first-degree murder of Robert Goyette in Nashua during an attempted robbery when Lopez was 17, according to reports in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Last month, a judge ruled Lopez and three other men convicted of unrelated homicides will get a new sentencing hearing to allow them to introduce mitigating factors because they all killed when they were teenagers.
Brown, 48, was sentenced to life without parole for first-degree murder for throwing an unconscious neighbor, Neil Watson, who had been beaten with a pellet gun, into the Merrimack River in January 1987, according to published reports.
Schultz, 49, was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1994 shooting death of his brother-in-law, Russell Jalbert, and sentenced to 22 years to life. Schultz is eligible for parole Feb. 8, 2016, according to Jeffrey Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.
Moir said the Supreme Court case State v. Laurie makes it clear defendants have the constitutional right that all evidence favorable to them be turned over before trial, including evidence that could cast doubt on a police officer's credibility.
"The burden is going to be on the government to prove this would not have affected the outcome of the case beyond a reasonable doubt," said Moir, who represented Carl Laurie at trial.
The state Supreme Court overturned Laurie's first-degree murder conviction in 1995 because the Attorney General's Office knew, but never told the defense, that a key police investigator who testified was known to be dishonest.
"The inquiry the court will have is going to be fact specific to each case," Moir said. "In other words, the question will be how important this information is and how important (Seusing) was as a witness in each case."
Twenty-seven years ago, Seusing told superiors that he hadn't made an arrest that led to an excessive-force lawsuit.
He later corrected the record on his own and was disciplined. Seusing did not respond to a request for comment on this story Friday.
Disclosure was made in the 1995 murder trial of Michael Monroe, but a judge ruled it inconsequential and it could not be brought up at trial.
No further disclosures were made in later cases in which Seusing testified, Young said.
In a news release issued Aug. 22, Attorney General Joseph Foster said: "Since the incident was found to be 'inconsequential' in a first-degree murder case where John Seusing not only was a lead investigator but also was involved in obtaining the defendant's confession, the state is confident the incident will not be used for impeachment of Seusing in any case."
Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance said she is exploring her options about disclosures in cases Seusing testified in and that her office prosecuted, but said the cases are now so old it may not be possible to find records.