No verdict yet in NH home invasion case

AP News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2011 5:19 PM
No verdict yet in NH home invasion case

A jury failed to reach a verdict after 90 minutes of deliberations Thursday in the trial of a man who admits killing a New Hampshire mother and maiming her daughter in a machete and knife attack and claims he was insane when he committed the crimes.

Christopher Gribble would be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole if the jury rejects his insanity defense.

Deliberations are scheduled to resume Friday.

Gribble's lawyer argued earlier Thursday that his client's lack of feeling and emotion while describing the Mont Vernon home invasion and savage attacks on Kimberly Cates and her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, is powerful evidence of his mental illness.

But prosecutor Peter Hinckley argued Gribble's insanity defense is nothing more than an excuse by a ruthless and remorseless killer.

"He's saying to you, `Find me insane because I committed those crimes and I got caught,'" prosecutor Peter Hinckley told the jury. "It's nonsensical. It's ridiculous and it's not a defense. It's an excuse and it's an injustice to the mother and the little girl he chose to ambush and plunge a knife into and leave bleeding and broken."

Defense attorney Donna Brown told jurors they have ample evidence that Gribble suffers from mental illness and challenged them to have the courage to return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

"There is not better evidence than that moment of the trial when he was describing what happened in that room," Brown said. "It was emotional. It was painful. It was upsetting and gut-wrenching to probably everyone in this room except him. He was oblivious that people were upset, crying, that people were shocked and horrified."

Brown reminded jurors that the state's own psychiatric expert diagnosed Gribble as having depression, a developmental disorder and personality disorders that include a lack of empathy for others. She also challenged them to have the courage to return an insanity verdict.

Jurors heard from 24 witnesses over the course of 10 days, including Gribble, who said he had wanted to kill someone for quite some time. He also said might kill again if he's ever released.

Before closing arguments, medical examiner Dr. Jennie Duval, testified that Kimberly Cates suffered 32 injuries, including machete slashes to her head so deep they penetrated her skull and brain.

Duval said Kimberly Cates was alive when all 32 blows were delivered.

Juries in New Hampshire have wide latitude to determine what a mental disease or defect is and whether it was the cause of the crimes committed. It has been more than half a century since a New Hampshire jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Gribble has the burden of convincing the jury he was legally insane when he committed the crimes. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson would hold a hearing to determine whether he is a danger to society. If he is, he would be committed to the secure psychiatric unit of the state prison and would be entitled to a new hearing on his dangerousness in five years.

If found guilty, he would be sentenced almost immediately after the verdicts are returned. Gribble is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree murder during the commission of a burglary, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit burglary and tampering with a witness.

Accomplice Steven Spader, who wielded the machete during the attacks, was convicted in November and is serving two life sentences without possibility of parole. He did not wage an insanity defense.