Judge denies new trial for man convicted in near-fatal Allenstown stabbing

  • Buffum

Monitor staff
Published: 11/12/2019 3:41:07 PM

The man convicted of orchestrating a near-fatal stabbing in Allenstown’s Bear Brook State Park in 2014 did not receive effective legal advice, but that alone isn’t grounds for a new trial, a judge ruled.

Judge Diane M. Nicolosi found that Kyle Buffum understood the court could sentence him to a minimum sentence of up to 60 years on three felony charges, and that a higher sentence was a risk of rejecting prosecutors’ plea offer. While she acknowledged that Buffum’s trial attorney made errors, she said Buffum failed to establish that the outcome would have been any different absent that “deficient advice.”

“Defendant’s own testimony revealed that his decision was not based on misadvice, but rather resulted from his intractable view of his case,” Nicolosi wrote.

Buffum, 28, of Barnstead is serving a sentence of 35 years to life in the planned attack that seriously injured Andrea Halvorsen, who suffered more than 20 stab wounds. A jury found him guilty of accomplice to attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and criminal solicitation after rejecting his insanity defense.

Prosecutors said Buffum skillfully coerced his then-girlfriend, Samantha Heath, to kill her friend. Heath pleaded guilty to attempted murder and received a 20-year prison sentence.

Nicolosi wrote in her recent order that Buffum “remains steadfast in his belief that he is much less culpable than his co-defendant and that logically his sentence should not be more than hers. He does not accept the Court’s view that he was the driving force behind the attempted murder and that, but for his persistence, no stabbing would have occurred, making him equally, if not more, culpable than Heath.”

Buffum filed his motion for a new trial this past February, more than a year after the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the 35-year sentence handed down by Nicolosi.

In his motion, Buffum argued his trial attorney, Ted Barnes, was ineffective and committed errors that adversely affected the outcome of the case. For example, Buffum says Barnes never advised him of his right to waive indictment, did not educate him about the maximum penalties he could face if convicted at trial, did not adequately pursue cellphone evidence, and did not thoroughly cross-examine state witnesses.

“The Court agrees with the defense that Mr. Buffum did not receive the legal advice to which he was entitled,” Nicolosi wrote. “Fundamental to a defendant making an informed choice of whether to accept or reject a plea offer is his understanding of the worst case scenario if he chooses to reject a final offer and go to trial or plead without a deal on the table.”

However, she wrote, Buffum fell short of convincing the court that he would have accepted the plea offer had Barnes properly advised him of his potential sentence for attempted murder.

New Hampshire law does not specify a minimum sentence; rather, it states that “the punishment shall be imprisonment for life or such other term as the court shall order.” Barnes told Buffum that the minimum sentence on the charge is up to 30 years and no more.

Despite that, Nicolosi found that Barnes did give Buffum the “big picture” perspective, meaning that Buffum knew convictions on all three charges could put him in prison for life.

“This defendant is an intelligent and very willful young man, who was well aware that his overall sentence could exceed collectively a 30-year minimum,” Nicolosi wrote.




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