Son: I didn’t help my father commit capital murder

Last modified: 1/31/2013 9:55:42 AM
Jesse Brooks wants another chance to convince a court he never helped his father mastermind the kidnapping and brutal murder of their Derry handyman in 2005. Brooks’s mother and her private investigators are holding a press conference Monday to unveil what they say is new evidence of Brooks’s innocence.

Their crusade doesn’t extend to Brooks’s millionaire father, John Brooks, who was convicted of capital murder for his role in Jack Reid’s murder. Jurors gave the elder Brooks a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

Casey Sherman, a true crime novelist from Massachusetts who is advising the Brooks team on media relations, said Jesse Brooks was a victim of ineffective defense attorneys and an overzealous attorney general with political ambitions.

“When they walk through what really happened,” Sherman said of Monday’s news conference, “hopefully it’s going to shift the paradigm for you as it did for me.” Brooks’s supporters have already detailed some of their claims on the website

Kelly Ayotte, who was the attorney general who brought the charges against John Brooks and Jesse Brooks, is now a U.S. senator. This was the second death penalty case she charged during her tenure as attorney general. She personally prosecuted the first, against Michael Addison for the death of a Manchester police officer. Other attorneys in her office prosecuted the case against Jesse and John Brooks.

Ayotte responded to allegations that her pursuit of this case was politically motivated yesterday through her spokesman, Jeff Grappone. “That’s absurd,” she said. “The charges against him were brought based on the evidence of the crimes he committed.”

Brooks, 36, is serving a 15- to 30-year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit murder in the 2005 slaying of Reid in a Deerfield barn. The state Supreme Court affirmed Brooks’s conviction in 2011. His new defense team, which includes Steven Gordon and Ben Siracusa Hillman of Shaheen and Gordon in Concord, has filed a new pleading in Merrimack County Superior Court asking that Brooks’s conviction be vacated.

According to the pleading, Brooks couldn’t have conspired with his father and three hitmen to kill Reid because he didn’t know they were planning Reid’s murder. Brooks’s account has never been told, the pleading said, because his trial lawyers refused to let him testify in his own defense.

Instead, the pleading said, the only version presented to jurors was that of the state and the two hitmen who struck plea deals with the state in exchange for their testimony. They and the third hitman are serving lengthy prison sentences for their roles in Reid’s death.

According to the state, Brooks’s father, John Brooks, hired the three hitmen to help him kidnap and kill Reid, 57, because he was convinced Reid had stolen several items from him. The state charged the elder Brooks with capital murder because under New Hampshire law, murder for hire and murder during a kidnapping are capital offenses.

Jesse Brooks was charged with conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly helping his father recruit one of the hitmen and for helping plan Reid’s murder. Prosecutors argued that Jesse Brooks also helped stalk and terrorize Reid before the murder and helped pay off one of the hitmen afterward.

In their pleading, Brooks’s new attorneys argue their client did none of that.

Brooks did visit Reid prior to the murder, but did so to resolve the dispute between his father and Reid, not to terrorize Reid, according to the pleading. Brooks was tired of his father’s “carping” about Reid’s alleged theft, the pleading said.

Brooks also didn’t skulk around Reid’s home in dark clothing for that visit, as the state alleged, but knocked on his front door in a bright-colored sports jersey, the pleading said.

Nor did Brooks attend a Las Vegas meeting to plan Reid’s murder, the pleading says. He has proof that he was in court answering for a drug charge that day, and followed that stop with a visit to his doctor and then the pharmacy.

Brooks may have handed one of the hitmen money after the murder, during his father’s Christmas party at a Las Vegas casino, the pleading said. But it wasn’t a payoff for Reid’s killing. Brooks had won nearly $50,000 gambling and gave about a half dozen people some of his winnings so they could gamble, the pleading said.

Gordon declined to discuss his representation of Brooks yesterday. “With the pleading filed, I believe it’s appropriate for the pleading to speak for itself,” he said. “I will address my comments to the court at the appropriate time.”

Brooks’s lead defense attorney at trial, William Kettlewell of Massachusetts, could not be reached yesterday.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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