Woman convicted in Concord stun-gun attack appeals to state Supreme Court
Carissa Williams speaks to Ellie Boisvert, her public defender, during Williams' trial at the Merrimack County Superior Court on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. Williams is accused of using a Taser on a pregnant woman during a road-rage incident last March in Concord. (Greg Lindstrom/Monitor file) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
The lawyer for a woman convicted in 2012 of shocking a pregnant driver with a stun gun at one of the busiest intersections in Concord argued yesterday before the state Supreme Court that prosecutors had failed to prove that her client acted with “extreme indifference” for the victim’s life.
The defendant, Carissa Williams, was found guilty of second-degree assault and sentenced to five to 14 years in prison – 1½ to seven years suspended on good behavior – for the March 7, 2011, attack off Exit 14, in which she left her car, entered the victim’s vehicle and stuck her in the thigh with the device as the woman screamed, “I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant.” The two had first encountered each other in Pembroke when Williams yelled at the woman to get off her phone as she drove.
Williams’s attorney, Stephanie Hausman, contended yesterday that the state had failed to introduce enough evidence at trial to prove that Williams had behaved without regard for the life of the victim, Corinne LeClair-Holler.
“There was no evidence that LeClair experienced pain or muscle paralysis from the taser shock, or, that her status as a pregnant woman made her particularly vulnerable to injury,” Hausman wrote in a brief for the court. Defense attorneys tried to convince a jury that Williams had intended simply to scare LeClair-Holler, whom she believed was following her and her infant child.
But Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan McGillis disputed Hausman’s claim, insisting yesterday that “stunning someone who is in a vehicle that can move without anything being done but your foot coming off the brake, and (stunning them) in the leg in that circumstance manifests extreme indifference.”
“If she had hit the gas or lost control of the car, she would have plowed into other cars and could have very well pushed those other cars out into that busy intersection,” McGillis told the justices. “And in Concord, everyone knows that Exit 14 is an extremely busy intersection and an extremely dangerous place to end up in the middle of . . . against a red light.”
Hausman, however, countered that prosecutors had never called into question the safety of other drivers, or even that of LeClair-Holler as it pertained to possible outcomes from the shock, such as her foot lifting off the brake.
“The indictment doesn’t mention the car or that she was at risk because of accelerating,” Hausman said.
“But so what?” Justice Robert Lynn interjected. “So what? Let’s assume all that’s true. . . . Isn’t the question whether or not the evidence would support that inference?”
“If Miss Williams had no indication that that was the state’s theory, then she had no way to rebut it,” Hausman replied.
Regardless, McGillis said, Williams clearly must have known of the risk she was imposing on LeClair-Holler’s pregnancy by using the device.
“I don’t know about that,” said Justice Carol Ann Conboy. “Before I read this case, I don’t know that I would have concluded that a stun gun placed to the thigh of a pregnant woman would be a risk to the life of the fetus.”
“I think it’s common sense that you don’t (stun) a pregnant woman,” McGillis said. “You don’t (stun) a driver who is driving with their foot on the brake in a car that’s sitting in a busy intersection. I mean, that’s just craziness.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, email@example.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)