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Labrie to return to N.H. Supreme Court to argue ineffective counsel

  • Owen Labrie sits with his father last month before the Supreme Court arguments on whether he gets a new trial on his 2015 felony conviction. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Convicted St. Paul’s School graduate Owen Labrie appears in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord in March 2016. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 10/29/2018 2:06:40 PM

Owen Labrie is scheduled to return next month to the state’s highest court to argue that his high-profile defense team was ineffective in defending him against a felony computer acts prohibited charge, which carries a mandatory penalty of lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Labrie, now 23, was convicted in August 2015 of using a computer to lure a 15-year-old St. Paul’s School freshman for sex as part of the now-infamous “Senior Salute.” He was acquitted of felony-level sexual assault but found guilty of statutory rape and endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors following a two-week trial in Merrimack County Superior Court.

On appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Labrie is arguing that Merrimack County prosecutors failed to prove that he used an internet service and not the prep school’s privately hosted intranet when exchanging email messages with the girl. He also says his trial attorneys failed him by not communicating to jurors – both opening statements and closing arguments – a defense to the computer acts prohibited charge and by not adequately researching the applicable statute that he maintains was misapplied to his case.

A lower court judge previously denied Labrie’s bid for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler denied Labrie’s motion for a new trial in April 2017, saying he failed to prove that his legal team – led by famed Boston attorney J.W. Carney and paid for by St. Paul’s alumni – was “constitutionally ineffective.”

The Supreme Court accepted Labrie’s discretionary appeal more than one year ago. Because it was discretionary, the high court had a choice on whether to hear the case or simply deny the appeal.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 28, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Appellate public defender Christopher Johnson will have 15 minutes to argue on Labrie’s behalf, while Assistant Attorney General Sean Locke will have an equal amount of time to state his case for why Labrie should not get a new trial.

The hearing will mark the second time in less than three months that Labrie will be seated before the Supreme Court. In mid-September, attorneys delivered oral arguments in Labrie’s direct appeal concerning his convictions.

The justices who heard that case have not yet issued a written opinion.

Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vt., is out of jail on bail conditions pending the appeals.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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