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Friday, June 13, 2014

Jury deliberations begin in convicted murderer’s father’s sex assault trial

NASHUA – Jurors were set to return to a Nashua courthouse Friday to continue trying to decide whether Harvey Martel sexually assaulted his daughter more than a decade ago.

The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes following closing arguments Thursday afternoon while Martel’s daughter, Molly Martel, wearing a dress, sweater and leg irons, waited under the watch of sheriff’s deputies. ...

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NASHUA – Jurors were set to return to a Nashua courthouse Friday to continue trying to decide whether Harvey Martel sexually assaulted his daughter more than a decade ago.

The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes following closing arguments Thursday afternoon while Martel’s daughter, Molly Martel, wearing a dress, sweater and leg irons, waited under the watch of sheriff’s deputies.

Molly Martel, 26, who first accused her father of assaulting her on Nov. 14, 2002, is a convicted murderer serving a 20- to 40-year sentence for a 2010 stabbing death in Manchester.

On Thursday, lawyers laid out two very different summaries of the 2½ days of testimony.

One of Harvey Martel’s defense attorneys, public defender Ed Cross, said there were too many inconsistencies in Molly Martel’s statements to police over the years to believe. He said the fact that she maintained some contact with her father over the years was evidence he never assaulted her.

“You don’t need a degree in psychology to know if someone sexually assaulted you, you keep them at a psychological distance. You keep them at arms length,” Cross said. “Molly didn’t do that, and it undermines her claim that her father sexually assaulted her.”

Cross pointed to testimony from a neighbor of the Martels who testified that he saw the father and daughter talking companionably several times between 2003 and 2008.

Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Kent Smith said Harvey Martel’s defense essentially amounted to his lawyers “nitpicking” 12-year-old statements given to police. But while details may have been forgotten over the years, he said, the heart of Molly Martel’s accusations – that her father sexually assaulted her – has never wavered.

“What’s the one thing that’s going to be consistent in your story? It’s going to be what’s important,” Smith said. “That’s something that’s clear to her and she’s never varied on that.”

Molly Martel testified Tuesday that she was on the phone with her then-boyfriend the afternoon of Nov. 14, 2002, when Harvey Martel, now 61, called her downstairs, knocked her onto a bed in their Merrimack home and sexually assaulted her.

Defense attorneys questioned why her boyfriend, Christian Dupont, never heard anything amiss.

He testified Thursday that a group of friends, who wanted him to play football with them, distracted him from the call. At the time, he said, he didn’t know the phone call would be important.

After her testimony, Molly Martel was escorted to the back of the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies who placed metal cuffs around her ankles – out of the view of jurors – and seated her separated by a row of seats from her family.

Before testimony began Tuesday, Judge Charles Temple ruled that Molly Martel’s murder conviction would be limited to issues around her credibility as a witness and barred prosecutors from arguing there was any connection between any sexual abuse and the murder.

She was convicted of stabbing Stephanie Campbell in Manchester in November 2010. She was arrested in Kerhonkson, N.Y., two days after the murder.

At her trial, Molly Martel’s lawyers said she had a history of family sexual abuse that was a contributing factor in the crime.

“She wasn’t born to be defended in a murder case,” attorney Eric Wilson told the court. “You’ve got to wonder why. What happened in the last 23 years that put Molly Martel in that chair?”

Harvey Martel’s trial was delayed 17 times before prosecutors dropped the charges in 2008, Cross said, arguing last week that the charges should be dismissed. He said Harvey Martel has suffered undue “emotional and psychological impact” as a result of prosecutors dropping the charges six years ago and re-indicting him in 2012.

Temple denied that motion.

Jurors will resume their deliberations around 9 a.m. Friday morning.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).