HAVERHILL — A Littleton man sentenced to six to 12 years for stabbing a teenager will get a new trial after the state Supreme Court reversed his first-degree assault conviction, ruling the Grafton County Superior Court trial judge erred by not allowing the defendant to argue self-defense.
Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo said Monday her office would retry the stabbing case against Jusiah Oddis.
“We’re proceeding with the case,” said Saffo, who said jury selection is set for April 8. She declined to discuss any other aspects of the case, including the Supreme Court’s reversal.
A jury last year found Oddis, 35, guilty of first-degree assault in the Sept. 20, 2011, stabbing of 17-year-old Jaison Cryans outside the Parker Village Apartments.
Oddis was accused of using a 15-inch knife with a nine-inch blade to stab the teen in his arm and chest.
The Supreme Court, in an order issued Jan. 13 by three justices — Gary E. Hicks, Carol Ann Conboy and James P. Bassett — overturned the conviction, saying Judge Timothy J. Vaughan erred by not allowing Oddis to raise defense of another as a defense, and by instructing the jury it could not consider any form of self-defense.
According to the order issued Jan. 13, a person is justified in using deadly force against another if he reasonably believes that a person is about to use unlawful deadly force against himself or a third person.
The court said, based upon its review of the evidence, that there was “some evidence” that Oddis reasonably believed Cryans was about to use deadly force against Oddis’ common-law wife and child.
Oddis and Cryans had been quarreling for two days and exchanging threats. The day before the stabbing, Cryans’ girlfriend told Oddis she could have him killed. After that threat, Cryans telephoned Oddis multiple times and threatened him. The next day, Oddis called Cryans and told him he was going to kill him, his girlfriend and his child. Subsequently, Cryans called Oddis three times, threatening him, and saying he was going to his home to “beat his ass.”
Cryans’ uncle drove him and his brother to Oddis’ home. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the vehicle came “flying” up the drive, and “sped up towards” Oddis, who thought it was going to run him down. The three men in the vehicle were all large and they all got out of it.
Cryans accosted Oddis and Cryans’ uncle was within inches of him. Oddis was brandishing a knife, but Cryans continued to approach him and his wife, who was carrying the child. Cryans grabbed Oddis’ wife and pushed her.
Thus, the court said, the record contains “some evidence” that Oddis reasonably believed that when Cryans grabbed Oddis’ wife, he was about to use deadly force. Both sides threatened to use deadly force, and Oddis was confronted by three large men who advanced toward him in spite of the fact he was wielding a knife, the court said.
Oddis was acquitted of a second first-degree assault charge, but convicted of criminal mischief in connection with kicking out the rear passenger side door window of a police cruiser after he was arrested.
Littleton Police Chief Paul Smith on Monday declined to comment on the reversal. Smith said he was a witness in the first trial, and likely will be again.
Jeff Lyons, spokesman for the New Hampshire State Prison, said Oddis remains in the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin, serving a two- to four-year sentence for an unrelated, second-degree assault that happened on July 16, 2011, in Grafton County. In that case, Oddis was accused of causing bodily injury to a 12-year-old girl in a sexual assault.
Lyons said Oddis was convicted of second-degree assault on Feb. 11, 2013, and is eligible for parole on Feb. 10, 2015. His maximum release date is Feb. 9, 2017.
Assistant Grafton County Attorney Jack Bell prosecuted Oddis, who was defended by attorney James Brooks of the state Public Defender’s Office in Orford.