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Man accused of armed robbery fights victim identification

  • James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Concord Police officer Ryan St. Cyr testifies about arresting James Rand during a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with Rand's April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Concord Police officer Ryan St. Cyr testifies about arresting James Rand during a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with Rand's April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Concord Police officer Ryan St. Cyr testifies about arresting James Rand during a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with Rand's April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • James Rand has a suppression hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court dealing with his April 2012 arrest; Monday, January 7, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

The lawyer for James Rand, the inmate wrongfully released from the state prison in March, would like the store clerk he allegedly robbed upon his release to be barred from identifying him at trial. Rand’s lawyer argued yesterday that the Concord police used suggestive tactics when they drove the Cumberland Farms clerk to the parking lot where Rand was being held and asked her if he was the one who had held a knife to her stomach less than an hour before.

But the Concord officer who made the call to identify the suspect that way – rather than through a police lineup – testified in court that the approach made sense, considering that Rand was found with money in a Cumberland Farms envelope and that he had given the police a false name.

“There was no ID on the subject so we had no way to prove who he was,” Sgt. Joseph Wright said. “And knowing that the robbery had just occurred, having (the clerk) come seemed again like a logical thing to do to confirm . . . or dispel, that this person may have been involved.”

Rand was arrested just minutes after midnight April 2 after the police received a call reporting an armed robbery at the Cumberland Farms on Manchester Street. The police have accused Rand, who was wrongfully released from the prison March 30 due to a parole mistake, not only of robbing the Cumberland Farms but also of robbing a woman at Walmart and burglarizing an Old Turnpike Road construction company.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler didn’t issue a ruling after the hearing. The case against Rand could go to trial as soon as the end of the month.

Julia Jones, the Cumberland Farms employee, testified yesterday that Rand had been standing at the counter, with his hooded sweatshirt pulled up around his head, when she came out of the bathroom.

“I approached him with, ‘Hello,’ as we’re instructed to do every customer. And . . .” she said, stopping to catch her breath between sobs.

The woman, who appeared to have been crying before she took the stand, looked to the side of the courtroom opposite Rand for all of her testimony, glancing at him only briefly when she was specifically asked to identify her assailant.

Identifying Rand as the man who attacked her wasn’t a problem, Jones testified yesterday, saying that even while he held her at knife point, walked her to the register, told her to open it and then asked her for her car keys, she made a point of noting what he looked like.

“As a criminal justice major, I’ve taken many classes, and I know that identifying the person is very important to the case,” she said.

But Rand’s lawyer, Jeffrey Rabinowitz, did not seem convinced that Jones’s mind hadn’t been other places during the robbery.

“When he had that knife sticking right next to you, weren’t you in fear for your life?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“And that may have caused you to think about other things,” he continued. “Fair enough?”

She called it a broad question. So Rabinowitz asked if she were thinking only about identifying her attacker in that moment.

“You can have multiple thoughts, sir,” she responded.

In his motion, Rabinowitz said that case law stipulates several factors that affect the reliability of a single-suspect identification, such as the witness’s level of attention, the time from the crime to the identification and the witness’s opportunity to view the suspect. He argued that Jones had not gotten a clear look at her assailant before officers brought her to see the man they had arrested.

And he asked Smukler to deem that identification as unreliable and therefore not permit it in the courtroom.

The officer who drove Jones to see Rand, though, said yesterday that he explicitly told the woman she was under no pressure to identify him as the man who attacked her.

“She seemed receptive and acknowledged that she was aware that she was under no expectation to make an identification,” Officer Matthew Casey said.

Casey said Jones, sitting in his vehicle, identified Rand as her attacker. And then, without any prompting, she asked if the man was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, he said.

An officer standing next to Rand pulled the hood over his head. “And then she said, ‘That’s exactly how he looked,’ ” Casey said.

In his response to Rabinowitz’s motion, Prosecutor Wayne Coull said that by identifying Rand as they did, the officers were keeping the public’s safety in mind.

“(The) police were dealing with a situation where an armed and dangerous man was committing multiple crimes in a short time span and willing to use violence in the process,” Coull wrote. “It was critically important that the police confirm or dispel the suspicion that the person apprehended was the robber. If the defendant was not the robber, then a dangerous person was still on the loose.”

The state attorney general’s office found in an October report on Rand’s release that he was wrongfully set free from the state prison because of human error but also a lack of written policies in the parole office.

Jones, as well as the woman allegedly robbed by Rand at Walmart, has filed a civil lawsuit against the state. Rabinowitz asked Jones how her positively identifying Rand would affect that case.

“It’s important for you to identify Mr. Rand as the person who committed that crime, correct?”

“For myself, yes,” the woman said.

Rabinowitz asked her if it was also important in order for her to collect financial damages.

“That’s not important, sir,” she said.

As Rabinowitz pressed the matter, noting that Jones filed the civil lawsuit within two months of the robbery, Jones grew angry.

“It’s not about the money, sir. I’d appreciate it if you would stop asking me about my personal case. . . . It’s not about the money, sir. It’s to admit that they were wrong,” she said.

“And in order for you to collect money,” Rabinowitz continued as Coull objected.

The judge stepped in.

“I think I understand your point,” Smukler said to Rabinowitz. “And whatever this witness says, you’ve made it.”

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

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