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Supreme Court upholds conviction in Hooksett man's killing of wife
CONCORD — The state Supreme Court upheld the second-degree murder conviction of a Hooksett man in the stabbing death of his wife five years ago at a New Boston campground saying the trial judge did not err in her instructions to the jury.
Robert Dupont, 65, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder in the Oct. 12, 2008, murder of Jo-Ann Francis, 60. In appealing the convictions, he argued that Judge Gillian Abramson, who presided at the Hillsborough County Superior Court trial, did not explain to jurors that the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had not acted in self-defense.
The stabbing happened in a camper the couple had at Friendly Beaver Campground. The two, who were drinking that day, got into an argument. Francis swore and screamed at her husband and said she was calling police. He left the trailer when she made the threat, but then changed his mind and went back inside.
Dupont maintained Francis had a knife in her hand when he went back inside. The two again exchanged words and as he turned to leave, Francis grabbed him and cut his left arm.
The two struggled and he tried to take the knife from her and that's when she suffered nine stab wounds to her head, face, neck, arm and hands. The stab wound to her neck proved fatal.
Dupont said he didn't know how Francis suffered the stab wounds; he surmised it happened during the struggle for the knife, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
He was charged with second-degree murder, but at trial jurors were given the option of considering lesser included charges of provocation manslaughter, reckless manslaughter or negligent homicide.
Abramson explained the elements in each of the charges that the state had to prove and, at the end after a bench conference, said if jurors had a reasonable doubt as to whether Dupont acted in self-defense, they must find him not guilty on all charges.
Dupont argued the judge should have included the self-defense instruction each time she explained a charge and not just once at the end of her instructions.
The court ruled that although the instructions for each charged offense did not separately include self-defense, the instructions as a whole properly informed the jury of the state's burden.
"Viewing the instructions as a whole, and not in isolation, we do not find any realistic possibility that the jury was misled as to its obligation to consider the issue of self-defense," the court said. It noted the judge instructed jurors if they "have a reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant acted in self-defense, you must find him not guilty on all charges and your deliberations must end at that point."
It was an instruction that came just before the jury headed into deliberations.
"Based upon the instruction as a whole, then, no reasonable juror would have believed that he or she could return a verdict of guilty as to any charge without first considering whether the state had negated self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt," the court said in upholding Dupont's conviction.
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