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State asks judge to reverse decision to explore new Breest trial

State attorneys yesterday requested that a judge reverse his decision earlier this month to consider a new trial for Robert Breest, who was convicted 40 years ago of murdering an 18-year-old woman and tossing her body onto the frozen Merrimack River.

Breest contends that recently discovered DNA evidence linking a second unknown man to the body will exonerate him if brought before a jury. The state has objected to a new trial, arguing that the DNA could have resulted from the woman, Susan Randall, having minor contact with another man before her death, or even from Breest’s own hands.

But in an order issued earlier this month denying the state’s request to dismiss the motion, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler said he wasn’t convinced the new evidence would produce an identical jury verdict.

In the new motion to reconsider, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin contested Smukler’s interpretation of a fact in the state’s initial objection and argued that he incorrectly determined that a new trial would provide Breest with the only means for relief from his current sentence. Strelzin also refuted Smukler’s reading that the state’s post-conviction DNA testing law trumps its new-trial statute.

Breest’s lawyer, Ian Dumain, said yesterday he was not yet prepared to comment on the new motion.

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