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N.H. dismisses claim that Ayotte relationship tainted Hopkinton murder case

The state attorney general’s office has disputed claims that a man convicted 15 years ago of raping and killing a Hopkinton girl is eligible for a retrial because one of his lawyers was allegedly having a romantic relationship with then-prosecutor Kelly Ayotte.

Both Ayotte and the lawyer, Nicholas Brodich, have said they dated briefly after the man, James Dale, was convicted and sentenced in 1999.

Dale’s attorneys petitioned this spring for a retrial, citing the relationship as well as ineffective counsel.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Wolford wrote in a response last week that Brodich filed to withdraw from the case four weeks after Dale was sentenced, on March 25, 1999. In an attached, signed affidavit, Ayotte, now a U.S. senator, wrote that Brodich asked her on a date “several weeks after James Dale was sentenced.”

“At best, then, Dale can establish only the mere possibility that Brodich and Ayotte began to date after he was sentenced but before Brodich filed the appeal,” Wolford wrote.

“Even if it were true that the relationship began before Brodich filed the notice appeal, this would have no bearing on either Dale’s trial or sentencing,” she wrote. “Moreover, since the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted the appeal and Dale was represented by other counsel on appeal, he cannot show that Brodich’s relationship had any effect on his direct appeal, either.”

Wolford also contested claims that Brodich and co-counsel James Moir erred during trial by not calling the victim’s mother or young sister to the stand. The mother made inconsistent statements to detectives and admitted to drinking several beers the night of the incident, Wolford wrote.

The sister’s statements were also unreliable, Wolford wrote, and both Brodich and Moir worried that calling her would prejudice jurors against Dale.

Wolford further contended that Dale should not be allowed to bring forth his claims so long after the conclusion of the case. Dale’s attorney, Robin Melone, disputed that Sunday.

“We don’t have any substantive comment at this point,” Melone said of the state’s response. “We disagree with the State’s position that Mr. Dale is barred from moving forward with his claims. We will be filing a response to the State’s argument in the coming months. We and the State agree that the next appropriate step is for the Court to hear argument and decide the procedural issues which we anticipate it will do.”

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

The DNA evidence was overwhelming, james Dale murdered Elizabeth Knapp during the commission of a rape. A rape so brutal the internal injuries were horrific. Ayotte screwed up, she should have sought the death penalty. I remember how hard then Chief Migdahl and his Department worked so hard to get enough evidence to seek the death penalty only to learn that would not be the case. James Dale belongs in prison for life, period

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