It is too bad that there are no awards shows for the criminal justice system. A couple of years ago, The Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog began presenting virtual memberships to the “Hey, I Bet I Can Make This Situation Worse!” club. Maybe we should revisit it. In the meantime, however, some kind of award should go out to the Nashua murder defendant, Christopher Gribble (hereinafter, the “Defendant”. As you may know he is on trial for a gruesome murder and associated crimes in New Hampshire.
If such award ceremonies were held, this year’s award for the most stunningly grotesque would go to the Defendant for his testimony at trial, second only to the scene of the crime itself.
It should be noted that the Defendant has admitted that he and his buddy Steven Spader (hereinafter, “Co-Defendant Buddy”) killed 42-year-old Kimberly Cates and tried to kill her young daughter. However, he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
While he was on the stand, the Defendant, during direct examination described in detail the details of the crimes he committed after he broke into the home and found his way to the bedroom where mother and daughter slept.
While, on one hand, the Defendant says he does not remember certain moments because it got “really weird”, he seemed to remember enough details to seemingly reflect some pride in a job well done.
“I was very precise,” the Defendant explained. “I didn’t just jump and hack haphazardly. I was very controlled, not in comparison to him [Co-Defendant Buddy]. He was just like all over the place…I went for some sort of shot…I’m pretty sure it was a neck shot, it being high. But I missed.”
But don’t make the mistake of thinking he was having any fun, simply relieved. As the Defendant put it perhaps more vividly, “It’s not like it was exultant…It was like something had been weighing me down. . . . The way I felt, it was like I felt so much better because I didn’t need to do it anymore, to kill somebody.”
Of course, there was the language commonly heard in insanity defense cases. “It was almost like a set of commands I knew to follow”, the Defendant explained to the jury. “The next thing that I did, OK, I switched over and stabbed her once or twice in the chest,…Somehow she started to pull away from me, and I remember her saying something like, ” ‘Why are you doing this?’ ”
An then, the moment of recognition. Finally, the lights came back on in the room so that the Defendant could see what he and Co-Defendant Buddy) did. In his words, he thought, “Wow! This is just like a CSI [television show] scene. . . . It was so cliché as to stick out in my mind.”
….And all this was on direct examination!!
Now, although I have handled a few New Hampshire criminal matters, I do not profess to be an expert on the specifics of the Granite State’s criminal statutes. Therefore, I will look at the case through Massachusetts-tinted glasses.
Believe me, with these issues, it will not matter.
First of all, the Defendant has taken the position that he is not guilty of the murder and the attempted thereof because he was legally insane. This would mean that he must show that he could not distinguish between right and wrong. It is based on an age-old belief that an individual cannot be punished for a wrongful act if he could not appreciate the criminality of his conduct.
Now, most of us would look at this defendant’s acts and say, “he must be crazy!” But that is not using the word the same was as the law does. This is why, when trying to decide if the Defendant understood what was doing, a cross-examiner will often question a defendant as to details and thoughts during the act. This would go to show, the cross-examiner hopes, that the act was thought out and calculated and that the defendant knew exactly what he or she was doing.
In this case, I have to wonder whether the Defendant and defense attorney really understood that. Now, I may be a bit jaded after practicing criminal law for so long, but his testimony seemed to reflect a very aware man who methodically committed the acts about which he testified and, if anything, was proud of how he was more controlled than his cohort. True, he did indicate that he was “almost” following commands in his head, but it would seem that those commands were his own. In other words, “the plan”.
I have had similar conversations with myself…although not during the same sort of…acts.
Now, today we looked at his direct examination. This is done, you may know, when the attorney calls the witness to the stand. In this case, it is the Defendant’s own attorney who had called him to the stand to testify on his own behalf. In other words, this testimony should be delivered in the light most favorable to the Defendant.
…so it would seem to me that he is in trouble already…!
The next step, of course, is cross-examination, when the prosecutor gets up to try to tear this “most favorable” testimony apart.
What happened in this case? Well, you will have to wait until Monday’s blog for that.
In the meantime, I once again remind you that if you are looking at criminal charges being leveled against you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. One who knows the playing field. If you would like to contact me about such a matter, please feel free to contact me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.
In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!
To view the original story upon part of this blog is based, please see http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2011/03/16/at_nh_trial_stark_recounting_of_attack/