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Judge mulls release of machete killer’s records

A prosecutor and media representatives argued yesterday that medical and other records compiled for a new sentencing hearing for a man convicted of wielding a machete in a deadly 2009 home invasion should be made public.

Twenty-one-year-old Steven Spader is serving a life sentencing for hacking to death 42-year-old Kimberly Cates and maiming her 11-year-old daughter in their Mont Vernon home in 2009.

The records – including a sentencing memorandum from Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin – were filed under seal before a hearing in April. The records also include the reports of two psychiatrists and depositions of Spader’s parents.

The hearing was mandated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that says imposing mandatory life sentences on convicts who were under 18 when the crime was committed amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and therefore is unconstitutional.

The court didn’t rule out life sentences altogether, but said judges should weigh a juvenile’s reduced culpability, susceptibility to impulse and peer pressure and potential for rehabilitation before imposing a sentence.

Spader was a month shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the home invasion. He was convicted and sentenced on his 19th birthday in November 2010.

Spader instructed his lawyers before the April hearing not to argue on his behalf, and Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson gave Spader his original sentence of life in prison without parole, plus 76 years for other felony convictions related to the home invasion.

Defense attorney Andrew Winters argued yesterday that his client is an “unsympathetic” individual but said Spader’s privacy rights were at issue.

Although his lawyers did not present a case in April, they did read in open court a letter Spader wrote expressing his remorse. It read in part, “Through my impulsive actions, I have torn apart families and ruined lives.”

Strelzin argued that Spader essentially put on his own case via the letter, particularly by characterizing his actions as “impulsive.”

“He opened the door to what’s in our memorandum,” Strelzin said. “He’s waived any right to privilege.”

Strelzin also argued that the medical and psychiatric records are not those of a treating physician, but of forensic experts who informed Spader that he had no expectation of doctor/patient confidentiality.

The Union Leader of Manchester and the Telegraph of Nashua moved to unseal the documents.

Abramson did not indicate when she would rule. At one point during the brief hearing, she noted, “If witnesses had been called, all this information would have come out in open court.”

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