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Lawyer seeks to withdraw in shooting case

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/30/2020 11:19:41 PM
Modified: 10/30/2020 11:19:32 PM

NORTH HAVERHILL — An attorney for Joseph Brown, a Grafton man accused of shooting another driver in a road rage case last year, is requesting to withdraw from the case, saying Brown can no longer pay his legal fees.

“I have been working pro bono for quite some time now,” Concord-based attorney Penny Dean said during a virtual hearing regarding her request in Grafton Superior Court on Friday. “You’re talking about months of free work.”

Grafton Superior Court Judge Lawrence MacLeod did not issue a decision on Dean’s motion Friday, but he listened to arguments from Dean and Assistant Grafton County Attorney John Bell, who worried about the delays Dean’s withdrawal could cause.

Brown, 40, has been held in jail since he was accused of shooting Jason Marandos during an altercation on Route 4 in Grafton in April 2019. Marandos survived the shooting.

Following his arrest, Brown hired Dean, a private attorney, and pleaded not guilty to felony counts of first-degree assault with a firearm and two counts of reckless conduct, arguing he fired the gun in self-defense.

Jury selection was originally supposed to start in October 2019, but the date was pushed back several times before the COVID-19 pandemic forced jury trials to be postponed in New Hampshire in April until further notice. Trials are expected to start up again in Grafton County in January, but a trial date for Brown has not been chosen.

One of the key issues that Bell raised Friday centered on a hearing that both parties began in March to evaluate an expert witness on self-defense and firearms, who may testify at Brown’s trial. The hearing has been on hold for months.

“Let’s finish what we started,” Bell said, suggesting that after Dean and prosecutors finish the evaluation, a public defender can be appointed in Dean’s place. Dean agreed to finish the evaluation.

But MacLeod worried that a public defender might have a different approach to the defense than Dean has had, which could complicate a case that’s already on its way to trial.

“That’s kind of a quandary,” he said, adding at the end of Friday’s hearing, “It’s not whether I’m going to allow you to withdraw, it’s how we’re going to do this.”

The hearing comes several weeks after Dean filed her motion, citing financial issues that caused a “breakdown” in her relationship with Brown. Hours after her motion, Bell filed an objection saying in part that her withdrawal would delay Brown’s trial, and writing that he was “skeptical” of the timing of her request.

In his Oct. 8 response, Bell suggested that the non-payment issue might be “manipulation” on the part of Dean and Brown. The judge is already considering whether it’s constitutional to keep Brown incarcerated ahead of his trial, he wrote.

“Should the Court grant a withdrawal ... the Court may be more inclined to order the release of the Defendant on bail, an objective the Defendant has been attempting to achieve at various stages of the litigation since his arrest,” Brown wrote.

Dean took issue with Bell’s argument, calling his suggestion that she was manipulating the process “offensive.”

“This counsel has expended much effort in her aid to obtain evidence expeditiously and to move this matter to trial, to suggest otherwise is risible,” she wrote in a response to Bell, filed the following day. She went on to accuse prosecutors of playing a part in the case’s longevity, saying they have made “no known efforts” to complete the March hearing.

The back-and-forth is the latest in many legal disputes between Dean and prosecutors over the last year-and-a-half since Brown’s arrest. In that time, Brown’s case summary has stretched to 42 pages long as both parties have filed numerous motions, objections and responses, amounting to over 300 court documents.

MacLeod said he expects to announce his decision on Dean’s motion next week.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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