CONCORD — An official account of a 2017 Claremont incident that involved allegations of racism and the potential attempted lynching of a biracial boy may soon be available after the state Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday related to the case.
In a seven-page order, the court opens the door for a peek into the usually confidential world of juvenile court, noting that the release of information would help in the rehabilitation of a youth who was brought into juvenile court in relation to the matter.
The ruling also casts doubt on the narrative that has developed in the high-profile case, which national media pounced upon. Media overwhelmingly reported that playmates had subjected the 8-year-old boy to racial taunts before putting a tire-swing rope around his neck and pushing him off a picnic table.
“If no information is released to the public, the false narrative that currently exists will continue to be the only information that the public has access to ... and because that ‘false narrative continues to haunt the juvenile in this case,’ a release of information ‘may, in fact, help in [the juvenile’s] rehabilitation,’” reads the Supreme Court order, quoting the juvenile court judge.
Once that case was resolved, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald moved to release information about the case — both a 25-page synopsis and hundreds of pages of investigatory files. The New Hampshire Union Leader filed papers as a party in the case, and on Tuesday Union Leader lawyer Gregory Sullivan called on MacDonald to release the synopsis.
“It is clear from the Supreme Court’s decision that the trial court determined that the Attorney General’s office is authorized to release the 25-page report, which protects the confidentiality of all concerned,” Sullivan said.
It’s unclear when the report might be released.
“We are reviewing the Supreme Court’s order that was issued (Tuesday) morning along with the draft report that was prepared,” Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said late Tuesday afternoon.
The ruling deals solely with what information should be released. In the order, Justice Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi wrote that the juvenile court was right to conclude that the investigatory records are subject to the confidentiality provisions in juvenile case law. She pointed out that the judge in the juvenile court had approved the release of the 25-page synopsis, which includes the scope of its investigation, the facts found during its investigation, and conclusions.
The case made national headlines, with both the boy and his parents making television appearances.
The FBI, the United States Attorney’s office and MacDonald’s office jointly investigated the incident, which prompted rallies and strong words from Gov. Chris Sununu. MacDonald announced the formation of a Civil Rights Unit in his office shortly after the incident.
The boy’s grandmother talked to the media and said her grandson suffered rope burns after a group of teens started voicing slurs and threw sticks and rocks at him. She said bullies put the rope from an old tire swing around his neck and pushed him off a picnic table.
He swung back and forth until he could remove the rope from his neck and was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for treatment of his injuries, she said at the time.
The city hosted several vigils, and the boy, Quincy Chivers, went on national television shows to discuss what had happened
He has said he wanted to be “cool” and put the rope around his own neck after a 14-year-old had done likewise. He said he was scared and that another boy quickly pushed him off the table.
His mother, Cassandra Merlin, has called it a hate crime, saying the older boys used slurs and phrases such as “white pride” throughout the day.
But the parents of one of the teens — Eric Sullivan and Rhianna Larkin — have described the matter as a prank with no racial motivation.