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Accused Concord murderer to argue self-defense at January trial

  • Dawsan Jette looks around the courtroom during his competency hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. Jette is accused of fatally stabbing a Concord woman during a drug deal in 2017. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) Nick Stoico

  • Daswan Jette, 20, of Concord is escorted from the courtroom after being denied bail during a hearing at Merrimack County Superior Court on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Jette was previously charged with two alternative counts of second-degree murder in the death of Sabrina Galusha. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 12/1/2019 10:31:45 PM

A man accused of fatally stabbing Sabrina Galusha in a drug deal gone bad in 2017 will argue he acted in self-defense at his upcoming jury trial in January.

Daswan Jette​​​​​, 23, had previously preserved his right to present an insanity defense at trial, but will no longer move forward with that legal approach. As a result, the defense won’t be introducing evidence about his history of mental health diagnoses, to include bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, as well as other mood and stress-related disorders. 

Early in the case, attorneys had questioned whether Jette was mentally competent to stand trial. However, Judge John Kissinger Jr. ultimately ruled that he is competent to understand the criminal proceedings against him despite his “significant mental health issues and cognitive difficulties.”

Jette has pleaded not guilty to alternative counts of first- and second-degree murder in the killing of Galusha, who police say was stabbed three times, including once in the chest, outside the Penacook Place Apartments on the night of May 30, 2017. 

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office alleges that Galusha, accompanied by three friends, intended to make a quick stop by the apartment complex to sell Jette a half-ounce of marijuana. However, prosecutors say Jette had plans of his own and proceeded to steal the $90 worth of pot, prompting an altercation that ended Galusha’s life.

An eight-day jury trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 7 with a site visit and opening statements from attorneys. A total of 18 jurors will be chosen in mid-December to hear the case, and 12 of them will decide at the trial’s conclusion Jette’s guilt or innocence.

As the trial nears, several motions regarding the admissibility of certain evidence are before Kissinger for a decision. Prosecutors are seeking to exclude evidence of key state witnesses’ criminal history and drug activity prior to the murder on May 30, 2017, as well as evidence of Galusha’s prior drug activity and information on her cellphone, also prior to that date. While the defense is arguing that the prior drug activity helps place Galusha at the scene and explain her motive for being there that night, prosecutors say the information is immaterial to the case at hand and could cause unfair prejudice.

Additionally, defense attorneys are seeking to preclude witnesses’ identification of a bag of pot, a pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt and a folding knife seized by Concord police during their investigation, arguing the process was “improperly suggestive.” In part, they maintain that detectives made statements designed to encourage the identification of certain clothing items and therefore tainted the evidence. Prosecutors disagree, saying witnesses actually stopped short of making certain identifications because they were too uncertain, which shows the presentation was not highly suggestive.

The defense is also arguing that more than 68 hours of audio from Jette’s phone calls and recorded visits at the jail should also be inadmissible. Kissinger said during a recent hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court that he was not inclined to grant the blanket request and instead asked prosecutors to let the court know if there are specific recordings they want to enter into evidence. From there, defense attorneys will have the chance to argue against admissibility, he said.

Both sides continue to dispute exactly what occurred on the night of Galusha’s murder, including what happened in a vehicle where the pot was exchanged and in a vestibule at Penacook Place where an argument ensued.

Jette, previously of Boston, had moved into his girlfriend’s apartment at Penacook Place just weeks before the stabbing. Galusha’s friend, Sam Chase, told police that a distant friend had reached out to him around that time through Facebook on Jette’s behalf to inquire about buying marijuana, according to prior court testimony.

Chase and Jette agreed to meet for the first time on May 30 at around 8:30 p.m. Chase was joined by Madison Campbell, Annika Tidd and Galusha.

The friends later told police Jette had climbed into the back seat of Tidd’s Chevy Cruze, where he produced a handheld scale and asked that the marijuana be weighed. However, once Galusha let go of the bag, Jette grabbed it and ran, they said.

The chase led Galusha, Chase and Campbell inside a small vestibule about 100 feet away, where police say Jette displayed a knife and threatened to stab them. While the friends ultimately escaped the lobby, Galusha was unable to make it back into the car in time and was stabbed, according to police records.

On their way to Concord Hospital, Galusha lost consciousness and could not be revived by paramedics.

The defense will proceed on the theory that Jette acted in self-defense that night after the group of friends pursued him into the vestibule.

A pretrial hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. in Concord.

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