Wounded officer says of conviction, 'The system works'
MANCHESTER - A jury in Hillsborough County Superior Court North took just two hours Tuesday to convict Myles Webster, 23, of the attempted murder of Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty and of three other charges related to the shooting.
Webster faces up to life in prison.
"Thank you to everyone. Everyone did a fantastic job," Doherty said while still in the courtroom. He called for applause for the prosecutors, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin and Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karen Gorham, saying: "They are amazing people for what they do."
Doherty's father, Kevin, who has attended the trial with his son and other family members, said: "I'm overwhelmed. I can't say enough about Jeff and Karen ... They say justice is served and it is."
Defense attorneys had argued that Webster was the victim of mistaken identity and that police had conducted their investigation in such a way as to guarantee the conviction of Webster.
In his closing argument Tuesday morning, defense attorney Robert Swales said police contaminated witness identifications of the shooter by not showing them a photo array with Webster's photo in it before releasing Webster's booking photo, which appeared in the media the morning after the March 21 shooting.
Swales also spoke of the difference in witness descriptions of what the shooter was wearing and said: "There are no fingerprints. There is not DNA."
Swales and co-defense counsel Caroline Smith maintained during the weeklong trial that police didn't offer a photo array to witnesses because they were afraid the witnesses would identify the wrong person.
Tampering with evidence
Swales made the same argument Tuesday, saying the decision not to show anyone, including Doherty, a photo array was a calculated, collaborative decision. "This is the equivalent of tampering with the evidence," said Swales.
He dismissed the testimony of two women who were with Webster that day, who described his clothing and said Webster had fired a gun out the car window at rush hour at the Granite Street Bridge.
He said they were reluctant witnesses who would say whatever police wanted them to say, including that Webster said if he got into any kind of trouble, he didn't care if any officer got in his way. He'd "shoot an officer."
Webster, who was released from federal prison in January after having served six months for walking away from a halfway house, was a convicted felon who could not legally possess a weapon.
"They needed that prior comment that 'He would shoot a cop,'" said Swales, who also dismissed surveillance videos.
The defense also suggested that the gun used to shoot Doherty was planted by police next to a fence surrounding the yard at 145 Putnam, where Webster was caught.
It's not like 'CSI'
Assistant County Attorney Gorham said Webster virtually eliminated any doubt as to his guilt when he told police in the booking area after his arrest: "You might as well kill me. I'm going away for life anyway."
But Gorham said there was plenty of evidence to show that Webster was the man who fired a .357 Glock semiautomatic at Doherty at close range at Wayne and Rimmon streets, emptying his gun and leaving seven holes in the body of Doherty, who beat the odds and survived.
Doherty testified during the trial, saying he responded to an undercover officer's call for follow-up on a man seen getting out of a car at the traffic light at Amory and McGregor streets with what looked like a gun tucked in his waistband.
The officer testified he was absolutely sure it was Webster who shot him, since the two were face to face and just feet apart.
"Officer Doherty's words alone are enough for you to convict," said Gorham, but the training and experience of the police conducting the investigation provided more evidence. "This investigation was done right from the very first moment," she said.
Gorham dismissed as a "red herring" the defense contention that identifications of Webster were contaminated because a photo array wasn't offered witnesses before the booking photo was released. "(Witnesses) identified the person they saw on March 21st," said Gorham.
She said this isn't like the "CSI" television series, in which DNA and fingerprints solve the case. There was no need to send Doherty's clothing to the New Hampshire State Police lab for gunpowder residue testing to determine if he was shot, she said. Police found a .357 shell casing where Webster's female friends said he had fired his gun out of the car, so there was no need to test the car for gunpowder residue.
"This case was solved by a thorough investigation," said Gorham.
Webster was also convicted of robbery, for confronting a neighborhood woman, while holding his empty gun, and demanding her keys and car in order to flee, and resisting arrest, for running away when Doherty ordered him repeatedly to stop after the initial encounter.
A pre-sentence investigation will be conducted before Webster is sentenced by Judge Gillian Abramson.
As he left the courtroom, a smiling Doherty walked between two lines of police, hugging, kissing and shaking hands. He said it was like his departure from Catholic Medical Center three weeks after he was shot last March, but then he was in a wheelchair and this time, "I'm glad to be on my own two (feet)."
He thanked the prosecutors for their efforts, saying: "The system works."
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Dale Vincent may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.