Ellison trial in jury’s hands

  • Richard Ellison (left) stands with his lawyer at the second viewing on Wednesday morning, August 11, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Defendant Richard Ellison and attorneys in front of the New Hampshire State Prison during jury view on Aug. 11. The prison is across from the former site of a duplex at where a fatal fire took place in 2005. Cassidy Jensen / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 9/13/2021 6:40:20 PM

Richard Ellison was nowhere near the house on North State Street 16 years ago in early December where a fire killed 84-year-old Robert McMillan, Ellison’s defense attorney argued in the closing arguments of his murder trial.

“Rick Ellison did not go to 282-284 N. State St. on the night of December 8 to the early morning hours of Dec. 9,” defense attorney Jeremy Clemans said.

Clemans pleaded with jurors that prosecutors had not done enough to prove Ellison’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“You’ll come to the realization that the state has not met its burden,” said Clemans.

Ellison, 48, stands trial for first and second-degree murder, accused of starting a fire at McMillian’s duplex at 282-284 N. State St., that resulted in the death of Robert McMillan in December of 2015. Ellison was arrested in 2018 after the case remained unsolved for years.

Jurors saw the area where the duplex once stood across from the New Hampshire State Prison before hearing evidence.

Prosecutors argued Monday that credible witness testimony and evidence presented throughout the trial proved Ellison was at the scene of the crime and had a motive to set the fatal fire.

In his closing arguments, Clemans called into question the credibility of some of the state’s evidence, arguing that witness testimonies are tainted by ulterior motives and coercion from law enforcement.

“Mr. (Matthew) York testified about telling detectives in Florida that he had some information only after he had gotten in trouble,” said Clemans.

York was previously on probation in Florida when he returned to New Hampshire to testify.

Clemans also argued that Stephen Carter, McMillan’s caretaker who lived in the adjacent unit to McMillan, had enough motive to absolve of guilt Ellison beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Mr. Carter was juggling two things,” said Clemans. “He was juggling the care that he provided to McMillan and he was juggling his own addiction.”

Prosecutors disagree. Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell argued that Carter purchasing drugs proves he had no motive.

“He was looking for drugs,” said Morrell. “That’s all he cared about that night.”

Prosecutors argued that given the lapse of time between trials, the witnesses remain credible.

“Given the lapse of time, it is even more unlikely that witnesses fabricated their testimony at this trial before you due to some perceived threat or promise that was made to them 16 years ago,” said Morrell. “These witnesses have grown up, they’ve changed their lives.”

Prosecutors claim Ellison had a motive to induce harm against Carter.

“He had a motive to hurt Stephen Carter on his festering grudge on Stephen Carter for kicking him out of the residence just months before,” said Morrell. “He used his knowledge of the residents from living there and unlocked the backdoor to search the entire residence for valuables and money.”

Jurors are set to begin deliberations at Merrimack County Superior Court tomorrow. It is unknown how long deliberations will last.

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