Judge denies motions in Grafton road-rage shooting case

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/2/2020 10:06:23 PM
Modified: 2/2/2020 10:06:21 PM

NORTH HAVERHILL — A Grafton Superior Court judge last week denied 11 motions filed by a Grafton man’s attorney seeking to block expert witnesses and evidence about his past in his upcoming trial for allegedly shooting another motorist in a road-rage incident.

In an order Tuesday, Judge Lawrence MacLeod called the motions “untimely in the extreme” and “without merit. He also accused defendant Joseph Brown, 39, of failing to comply with the rules of criminal procedure for filing the motions so close to the trial date.

Jury selection is scheduled to start on Tuesday for Brown’s trial. Brown has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of first-degree assault with a firearm and two counts of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon following the incident last April. Prosecutors have said Brown cut off Jason Marandos’ vehicle on Route 4 in Grafton, prompting the two men to get into a “scuffle.” When they broke apart, Brown shot Marandos in the abdomen, according to police.

Defense attorney Penny Dean plans to argue at the trial that the shooting was justified because it was an act of self-defense; Brown has asserted he shot Marandos to prevent further harm to him or to his three children, who were in the car at the time. Marandos was traveling with his wife and son at the time of the incident.

Brown has been held without bail since his arrest in April, and Dean has “been vigorously litigating,” the charges by filing over 30 motions or pleadings since the spring, including the 11 in the last month, according to MacLeod’s order.

Two of the most recent motions focused on evidence about Brown’s past. In one, Dean argued that the judge should bar prosecutors from naming two websites related to the Free State Project that Brown has frequented. He’s used the comment sections of the websites to discuss firearm use and New Hampshire’s self-defense laws, according to his posts.

“In Grafton County, strong opinions are held about the Free State Project and FreeKeene, and the mere fact that Mr. Brown posted on those sites or visited those sites would unfairly prejudice many against Mr. Brown,” Dean wrote in the motion. The Free State Project has drawn a number of libertarians to Grafton and Keene.

In another filing, Dean requested the judge exclude “derogatory” testimony from witnesses about Brown’s driving history. The remainder of the recent motions revolve largely around several expert witnesses who are set to testify at the trial, including a physician, state troopers and forensic experts.

Among her complaints, Dean argued in a Dec. 30 filing that prosecutors hadn’t sent her a case list for any of their expert witnesses, adding that without the list, she is “unable to provide effective assistance” to Brown at trial. In a Jan. 12 motion she questioned whether two New Hampshire state troopers are “experts” in the case. In a similar Jan. 17 motion, she argued that the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center doctor who treated Marandos should be taken off the witness list, saying it is “the height of hubris” to claim that she’s an expert in all kinds of medical care.

MacLeod wrote in his order that Dean knew about the issues discussed in her motions long before filing them, yet she still submitted the documents after a required deadline.

“The defendant has not even asserted, much less demonstrated, good cause for failure to comply with the rules of criminal procedure,” he wrote.

On Jan. 15, prosecutors requested to push the trial back to March, but MacLeod has not ruled on the request.

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

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