N.H. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal in Robarge Murder Case

  • Public defense attorney Caroline Smith introduces her client James Robarge to potential jurists in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport, N.H., Jan. 5, 2014. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2017 11:47:20 AM
Modified: 8/2/2017 10:28:29 AM

Concord — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has denied an appeal from a Charlestown man who was convicted of killing his wife on the day she filed for divorce in 2013.

James Robarge won’t receive the new trial he was seeking.

The now 47-year-old Robarge appealed his reckless second-degree murder conviction in July 2016, claiming a Sullivan County judge erred in allowing prosecutors to admit three pieces of evidence at his 2015 trial: cellphone location records, a photograph of one of his tattoos that read “love kills slowly,” and evidence that he previously had threatened to kill his wife, Kelly Robarge.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office in January 2017 responded to Robarge’s appeal and urged the high court not to reverse the conviction.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court justices issued a written order that sided with prosecutors.

“Even if the trial court erred in those respects, the state has met its burden of proving that these errors were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” the justices wrote.

The justices noted that a formal written opinion was “unnecessary” in this case, citing overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

In his appeal, Robarge contended the cellphone location records the state used to plot his whereabouts on the morning his wife disappeared in June 2013 were unreliable and that the investigator who compiled and analyzed the data was not qualified to do so.

He also claimed that admitting evidence of what the tattoo said and allowing a witness to testify to an instance when Robarge threatened to kill his wife over a haircut was “unfairly prejudicial” and an “improper” character inference, according to his appeal.

The justices said there were several other pieces of evidence that plotted Robarge’s whereabouts that day, so “the location evidence derived from the cellular telephone records was “merely cumulative or inconsequential in relation to the strength of the state’s evidence of guilt,” the justices wrote.

In addition, the justices said, “we similarly find inconsequential and/or cumulative evidence” the tattoo and the threat.

“For these reasons, we conclude that the state has met its burden of proving that any error in admitting the evidence the defendant sought to exclude was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” the justices said.

Robarge is serving a minimum of 30 years in prison, and his earliest possible release date is 2043.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

Continue reading after the court decision.

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