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Judge in Jamie Locke case urges her to appeal

Jamie Locke is sentenced in Merrimack Superior Court to a sentence of 4.5 to 14 years for a 2009 assault;  Friday, January 4, 2013. 
(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Jamie Locke is sentenced in Merrimack Superior Court to a sentence of 4.5 to 14 years for a 2009 assault; Friday, January 4, 2013. (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

More than three years after being charged, Jamie Locke was sentenced yesterday for beating a homeless teen and throwing him into the frigid Merrimack River. But as the sentence was handed down, a judge encouraged Locke to appeal to the state Supreme Court, saying it would be worthwhile – for her and for the legal community – to clarify several convoluted turns in her prolonged case.

Locke, 36, will be incarcerated for at least two more years under the sentences imposed by Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler.

She has already been behind bars for about 2½ years. And Smukler – sentencing Locke for the assault, three drug charges and one count of bail jumping – decided she should serve, at minimum, 4½ years total for all the crimes.

Under the maximum sentences, which will be suspended pending 10 years of good behavior, Locke would serve a total of 14 years.

While Smukler notably gave her the maximum sentence of 3½ to 7 years on the second-degree assault charge, he was lighter with the other counts, suspending two full sentences of 3½ to 7 years for selling heroin, saying Locke had taken accountability for her actions and showed remorse.

Locke, who pleaded guilty to those drug charges Thursday, called herself an addict with “many more roadblocks” on her “path to recovery” than she had anticipated. She told Smukler she accepted responsibility for the actions “of which I’m admitting to be true.”

But she didn’t take responsibility yesterday for the brutal assault she was convicted of – during a second trial – in November. Locke, a mother of four who was homeless at the time of her November 2009 arrest, has said that she was upset with 19-year-old Jonathan Evans for stealing her friend’s boots but maintained she didn’t throw him into the river.

Locke was first tried in June 2011, and while a jury acquitted her of first-degree assault, she was found guilty of serving as an accomplice to attempted murder. Smukler later threw out that verdict, saying the crime doesn’t exist in New Hampshire.

According to Assistant County Attorney Wayne Coull, Locke was also found guilty at that trial of conspiracy to commit murder, a charge that could have landed her a sentence ranging from 20 years to life in prison.

But the jury’s foreman mistakenly read the verdict as not guilty, Coull said.

Coull asked for a mistrial, saying in court documents that the judge had discovered the mistake when meeting with jurors but dismissed the group before he notified the attorneys.

Smukler, in an order that did not confirm Coull’s version of events, denied the request for a mistrial, saying prosecutors had a chance to individually poll the jurors for their verdicts and didn’t.

That left Locke without any convictions.

So prosecutors charged her with a new crime of second-degree assault, a crime that requires the state to prove Locke showed an “extreme indifference to human life.” First-degree assault, of which Locke had been acquitted, requires proof that she used a deadly weapon – in this case the water of the Merrimack River – when assaulting Evans.

Locke’s lawyers called the move double jeopardy.

But Smukler allowed for a new trial, which took place in November and resulted in a guilty verdict.

Smukler said yesterday that he’s confident in how he handled the complicated case.

“I called them as I saw them. I think I made the right decisions, and I would expect that the Supreme Court would agree. But in the 20-plus years I’ve been a judge, while that’s been the case more often than not, I don’t have a 1,000 percent batting average. . . . I think you have some very good (appeals),” he told Locke. “And I encourage you to appeal. I would like to know the answer.”

In asking Smukler for a sentence of five to 14 years, Coull yesterday reminded the judge that Locke “could have very well been sentenced for her role in trying to kill somebody,” hinting at the trial that went wrong.

“I’m not going to really argue that,” Coull said.

He said that while the case followed “not necessarily the smoothest road,” Locke was facing sentences similar to the ones imposed on two others convicted of assaulting Evans.

But Locke’s attorney, James Quay, asked the judge for lighter sentences with the entirety suspended pending five years of good behavior. He argued the move would have allowed Locke to take part in meaningful drug rehabilitation programs as soon as possible.

Quay did not return a message yesterday afternoon, asking if he intends to appeal the case.

Before yesterday’s sentencing, Joseph Hearn, a friend of Locke’s who had testified about her character, threatened to assault a Monitor photographer if he took photos of the hearing. Hearn was warned by a bailiff to be on good behavior during the hearing. But Hearn continued to make comments about a Monitor reporter and photographer’s presence and was again reprimanded by the bailiff.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@tricia_nadolny.)

Legacy Comments1

This criminal justice sytem of ours is rotten to the core. Had this been Paris Hilton she would have got probation. The media made a circus out of this case just to sell papers.

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