Court declares mistrial in Ellison murder case

  • 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 August 11. The prison is across from the former site of a duplex at 282-284 N. State St. where a fatal fire took place in 2005. Cassidy Jensen

Monitor staff 
Published: 9/21/2021 4:39:09 PM

After nearly a week of deliberations and the departure of multiple jurors, a judge has granted the defense’s motion for a mistrial in the murder trial of Richard Ellison.

Ellison is standing trial for first and second-degree murder, accused of starting the fire that killed 84-year-old Robert McMillan in his home at 282-284 N. State St. in 2005.

McMillan was ill and relied on his caretaker Stephen Carter on the other side of the duplex to leave his bed. Ellison was arrested in 2018, after the case remain unsolved for more than a decade.  

Prosecutors argued that Ellison was at the scene of the crime and had a motive: he and his then-girlfriend Robin Theriault had stayed with Carter in the duplex and were angry when he decided to kick them out.

But the defense said that Carter too had a motive and that the state’s witnesses were influenced by police coercion. 

The jury began its deliberations last week and failed to reach a verdict. During deliberations, two jurors were replaced by substitutes.

On Monday, the jury announced that they were deadlocked, and deliberated all day without reaching a verdict.

Finally, on Tuesday, “a deliberating juror reported a personal situation which made continuing, jury service very difficult,” according to a court order from Merrimack County Superior Court Judge John C. Kissinger.

Kissinger determined that the juror would not be able to continue to serve on the jury even after a few days away from the trial, and that the remaining jury should not be asked to continue deliberating with new alternates.

“The Court finds that asking them to begin anew a fourth time, after deadlocking during the third set of deliberations, asks too much and raises real concerns about securing the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial trial,” he wrote in his court order. 

Kissinger also ruled that Ellison would be detained until retrial.

“For the reasons set out on the record, the Court (having presided over the jury trial) finds there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed first-degree murder,” he wrote in the court order. 

A status conference is set for November 17 to choose a date for a new trial.

Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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