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Webster verdict: Guilty on all counts

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 11. 2012 12:58PM
Myles Webster, right, listens as a jury announces in Hillsborough County Superior Court Tuesday that he's guilty for shooting officer Dan Dan Doherty last March. (JIM COLE/AP POOL PHOTO)

MANCHESTER - A Hillsborough County Superior Court jury this afternoon found Myles Webster, 23, guilty of the attempted murder of Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty and of two counts of reckless conduct, robbery and resisting arrest in the March 21 shooting at the corner of Wayne and Rimmon streets.

The jury began deliberations Tuesday shortly after noon.

After the verdicts were read, defense attroneys requested the jury be polled on all the verdicts. A pre-sentence investigation will now be conducted.

In closing arguments, the defense had sought to persuade the jury that Webster was the victim of mistaken identity and that the police had conducted the investigation in such a way as to guarantee his conviction.

The prosecution said there was ample evidence that Webster was the man who shot Doherty after a foot chase, emptying his gun in an effort to kill Doherty as the police officer lay on the ground.

Prosecutors said Webster then fled the scene of the shooting, unsuccessfully demanding keys and a car from a neighborhood woman and then cutting through yards as he was pursued by police.

Webster was caught in a back yard at 145 Putnam St., where he had disposed of his black jacket in a trash can.

The .357 Glock semi-automatic gun he used was found at the base of a fence dividing the yard from 141 Putnam St.

In her closing argument, assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karen Gorham told jurors that the defense's claim that Webster is the victim of mistaken identity, that there is no DNA or fingerprint evidence, and that police made a 'conscious, calculated decision' not to show witnesses a photo array because they were afraid Webster would not be identified, are red herrings.

Defense attorney Robert Swales told jurors in his closing argument, 'Myles Webster is not the man who shot Officer Doherty.'

Swales said that even Doherty's identification of Webster was contaminated by viewing the picture of Webster. He also suggested that when Doherty was confronted by Webster at the corner, 'because of the glare, he couldn't see it was a gun ... His focus was on what is in that man's hand. He wasn't looking at the face.'

Swales said, 'Officer Doherty's recollection of what happened isn't what happened.' He said Doherty's inability to name the streets on which he chased the shooter is an indication that his memory is untrustworthy.

As for his identification of Webster, said Swales, 'His memory had been infected by the (media) coverage, contaminated.'

Gorham said that is all nonsense. For starters, Doherty got a good look at Webster before the shooting when he called to him to stop. 'This man looked at him and ran,' she said. At the shooting scene, said Gorham, the two men were as close as two feet. 'The defendant advanced and continued shooting,' his bullets leaving seven holes in Doherty's body, she said.

'He intended to kill Officer Doherty, but he failed,' Gorham said.

Gorham dismissed the defense contention that not using a photo array was an effort to ensure Webster's convictions because the witnesses might not pick out Webster's photo. It wasn't necessary because they had the right man, she said.

'This investigation was done right from the very beginning,' she said, from the moment an undercover officer asked for followup after seeing Webster get out of a car at the intersection of Amory and McGregory streets with what looked like a gun butt showing at his waistband.

As for the defense's contention that the descriptions of the shooter's clothing all varied, Gorham said Webster was wearing his black jacket with plaid hood lining and black jeans when he got out of the car, but later discarded the jacket and a black T-shirt and was captured wearing his white T-shirt. The black T-shirt was found along the chase route, and the jacket was found in the yard where he was captured. 'He disrobed as he went through the neighborhood,' she said.

As for the lack of DNA and fingerprint evidence, Gorham said the New Hampshire State Police fingerprint and DNA experts explained why it isn't always possible to get that information from guns. This isn't like the television show 'CSI,' she told jurors. This case was solved by a thorough investigation, she said.


Previous story follows:

MANCHESTER - Closing arguments will be this morning in the trial of Myles Webster, 23, charged with attempted murder in the March 21 shooting of Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty.

After jury instructions are given by Judge Gillian Abramson in Hillsborough County Superior Court North, the jury will begin deliberations.

The prosecution argues that not only did Webster fire his .357 Glock semiautomatic handgun at Doherty until it was empty at Wayne and Rimmon streets, but Webster also had fired the gun out of a car window shortly before. He is also charged with threatening to kill an officer rather than go back to prison, and demanding keys and a car from a woman moments after the shooting, saying: "I need to get out of here."

The final prosecution witness Monday was Dr. Robert A. Catania, one of the Catholic Medical Center surgeons who operated on Doherty the night of the shooting.

"Nine times out of 10, the wounds would have been fatal," Catania said. Proximity to CMC, the experience of the emergency staff and Doherty's youth and excellent physical condition made the difference, the surgeon said.

Catania said bullets damaged Doherty's lower left leg, large and small intestine and bladder, and put a hole in the internal and common iliac veins where they are joined.

Without quick work, "He would have bled to death," said Catania, noting Doherty has had to undergo a number of subsequent surgeries.

Webster was arrested in the back yard of 145 Putnam St., after a police foot pursuit south on Rimmon and west through Putnam Street back yards.

Police testified the gun used to shoot Doherty was found at the base of a fence separating 141 and 145 Putnam, with the gun on the 141 side.

A black jacket that matched the jacket Webster was wearing in video surveillance at the Rite Aid store at McGregor Square shortly before the shooting was found in a trash barrel outside a shed at 145 Putnam St., next to the fence that surrounds the back yard.

Prosecutors said Doherty had responded to an undercover officer's report of a man who got out of a vehicle at the Amory Street traffic light at McGregor Square and headed west on foot, with what appeared to be a gun tucked in his waistband.

Doherty testified that he spotted a man matching that description and shouted to him to stop and show his hands.

Instead, Doherty testified, the man took off running and he followed, repeatedly telling the man to stop.

Doherty said he was within tackling distance when the man stopped, spun around and began firing. Doherty was able to return fire, but none of his 10 bullets struck the gunman. Webster was so close, Doherty said, that he is absolutely sure it was Webster who shot him.

Prosecutors presented as witnesses police, civilians, state forensic laboratory experts, and medical personnel in an effort to convince jurors that Webster was the man who fired 14 bullets at Doherty - four of them striking the apartment building on the corner - and leaving a trail of cartridge casings as he fled.

The defense argues Webster is the victim of mistaken identity and that police conducted their investigation in such a way as to ensure conviction of Webster, the man they had in custody.

The defense attorneys say police tainted witness identification by failing to show witnesses a photo array of possible suspects before releasing the photo of Webster and identifying him as the shooter. The photo appeared in the media the morning after the shooting.

Defense attorneys also argue there is no fingerprint or DNA evidence and police did not test Webster's hands for gunshot residue.

During a jury recess, before the defense presented its case, Smith sought to have charges dismissed, saying the state, represented by Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin and Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karen Gorham, has not made its case. Abramson denied the defense motions.

The defense called only one witness, Manchester Police Sgt. Michael Biron, who said he was off duty but went in on his own after receiving a call about the shooting.

He was in the trauma area of the ER when he spoke with Doherty, Biron testified. "I asked him if he could remember anything," Biron said.

Defense attorney Caroline Smith asked Biron what Doherty said. "Hispanic male, heavyset, pony tail, black clothing. He shot me," said Biron.

The defense then rested.

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