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Concord burglary case hinges on surveillance video

For a man professing his innocence, the evidence against Joseph Call was far from favorable. The chunk of asphalt near the shattered glass door of a Concord convenience store. The surveillance footage showing a man of Call’s build and facial features approaching the door, peering in and then stepping away, six minutes before someone off camera hurled an object at it, tripping an alarm. The police officer linking him to the pale, gray-hooded man in the video.

But none of that, defense attorneys argued yesterday during Call’s one-day trial in Merrimack County Superior Court, is enough to prove he was the one who tried to break into the Capital Farms on Broadway just after midnight one summer morning last year.

“How many times have you gone to the store late at night to grab something last minute?” asked Ellie Boisvert, one of Call’s public defenders, in an opening statement. “You get there, there are some lights on, you think, maybe even if the store is closed there is somebody inside who will let you in for one last purchase.

“Or maybe if the store is closed, you’ll check the hours for next time.

“Maybe you didn’t even go to the store that night. Maybe it was just somebody who resembled you.”

Call, 23, is charged with one felony count of attempted burglary in the July 24 incident, in which no break-in occurred (the alarm likely spooked the perpetrator, authorities said). Police officers said they first recognized him on the store’s surveillance tape because he was a suspect in a string of other burglaries in Concord, Manchester and a handful of surrounding towns.

Since his July 25 arrest, Call has been indicted on charges of conspiring in a theft from the Hooksett Walmart, of driving with a suspended license and of disobeying an officer – for all of which he is scheduled to stand trial this spring. He is currently incarcerated in the state prison in Concord on a parole violation stemming from a 2009 conviction for criminal mischief and receiving stolen property, a prison spokesman said.

But jurors, who have yet to return a verdict, heard none of that history yesterday. Instead, attorneys for each side asked them to use “common sense” when parsing the facts of the case.

“There was no other reason to go to the store,” said County Prosecutor Wayne Coull. “It was closed, obviously they were trying to smash through the door, of course they were trying to steal – it’s common sense.”

Coull noted that just six minutes – “360 seconds,” as he put it – passed between the time Call, or at the least his doppelganger, appeared at the door and the time it was struck, presumably by the asphalt later recovered nearby.

“In that 360 seconds, when you watch the videotape, also ask yourself what happens,” Coull told the jurors. “Simply, nothing happens. Nobody else, no other person, no other activity, no other lights – nothing whatsoever between the defendant at the door and someone trying to break in.”

But Call’s attorneys argued that, in fact, a lot can happen in six minutes. And they noted that none of the state’s evidence was direct proof.

“There’s no physical proof he threw the rock, there’s no eyewitnesses, there’s no confession, no fingerprints,” said his attorney, Elizabeth Mulholland. “The police didn’t find a gray sweatshirt or a checkered bandanna. They didn’t talk to any other witnesses who said, ‘Yeah, he wasn’t home, he was out and about.’ ”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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