Father convicted in Concord daughter’s death wants manslaughter plea withdrawn

  • Jocarl Bureau wipes away tears with his hands as Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley recommends a sentence of 18 to 40 years to Judge Richard McNamara during Bureau’s plea and sentencing hearing at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Bureau pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of his daughter and faces 18 to 40 years in state prison. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 7/21/2020 1:10:05 PM

A father convicted two years ago in the 2016 killing of his 3-year-old daughter in Concord is seeking to withdraw his guilty plea.

Jocarl Bureau, 26, recently filed a hand-written motion in Merrimack County Superior Court, in which he accuses the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office of withholding evidence that he says could have exonerated him. Bureau vaguely references photographs that he claims show bruises on 3-year-old Jayleah Bureau prior to his return to New Hampshire. He argues that prosecutors shared at least one of those photographs with a witness, who is not identified, but never with him.

Bureau, who is serving 18 to 40 years in state prison, also alleges that Jayleah suffered from a heart infection, which may have caused a vein to rupture prior to her death on March 15, 2016.

In his response, Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley told the court that Bureau’s claim about Jayleah’s heart condition is completely fabricated and not based on any medical evidence. Further, Hinckley, said he has “no idea” what witness interview or photographs Bureau is referring to when claiming the state had evidence it did not turn over.

Hinckley, who prosecuted the case against Bureau, questioned why Bureau waited more than two years after his plea and sentencing hearing to seek relief from the court. He said the attorney general’s office will not “decipher ambiguous factual claims and articulate a defendant’s factual and legal grounds in support of relief.”

Judge Andrew Schulman denied Bureau’s motion in its present form and, in a separate order, called for a court-appointed lawyer to represent Bureau to help him determine any factual basis for his claims.

Bureau pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Aug. 10, 2018, for inflicting substantial force to Jayleah’s abdomen and failing to seek medical attention, resulting in her death. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed a charge of second-degree murder, alleging Bureau recklessly killed his daughter on March 15, 2016, at the family’s residence at Eagle Bluffs condominium in Concord.

At the sentencing hearing, Hinckley said that Jayleah went to bed on the night of March 14 with no visible injuries and appeared healthy. However, the next morning, she was unresponsive and rushed to the hospital.

Bureau initially told first responders that Jayleah had choked on her eggs and apple juice and did not respond to 20 minutes of chest compressions. But first responders found no evidence of food blocking the girl’s airway.

Investigators said Bureau called Jayleah’s mother nearly 30 minutes after an assault, and that he never dialed 911. Jayleah was later pronounced dead at Concord Hospital.

An autopsy showed that Jayleah died from massive internal bleeding after a vein in her stomach severed. Bureau asserts in his latest motion that it was a vein in Jayleah’s heart that ruptured and killed her.

After years of not knowing his daughter, Bureau had returned to New Hampshire and re-entered Jayleah’s life. He was a stay-at-home father at the time of her death, something prosecutors say frustrated him because he was unable to pursue other activities and had to run what he called “daddy daycare.”

Court documents show that Bureau requested his case file and all evidence from the court in January 2019, five months after pleading guilty to manslaughter. He said at the time that he planned to challenge his conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Ultimately, his attorneys provided him with the requested documents and exhibits.

Judge Schulman has given Bureau 90 days to file an amended motion that details the reasons why he believes his plea should be revisited.

“Bureau’s motion consists of little more than a caption and a topic sentence. It is too inchoate to support relief. But it is also too inchoate to flat-out deny,” Schulman wrote. “Bureau is entitled to appraise the court of the factual and legal basis for his claim.”

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