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Friday, August 8, 2014

Judge sides with man shot by Nashua officer; can depose officer, detective

NASHUA – A judge has ruled that a man shot by a city police officer this winter may use the state’s “stand your ground” law at a trial and will be able to depose two city police officers, including the one that shot him.

Both rulings favored Craig Riley, 41, of Nashua, on a pair of motions defense attorneys and prosecutors have clashed over. Riley is facing a slew of felony charges, including attempted first-degree assault and resisting arrest. ...

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NASHUA – A judge has ruled that a man shot by a city police officer this winter may use the state’s “stand your ground” law at a trial and will be able to depose two city police officers, including the one that shot him.

Both rulings favored Craig Riley, 41, of Nashua, on a pair of motions defense attorneys and prosecutors have clashed over. Riley is facing a slew of felony charges, including attempted first-degree assault and resisting arrest.

Prosecutors argued in court motions that Riley’s attorneys, public defenders Anthony Sculimbrene and Michael Davidow, should not be allowed to depose officer Steven Morrill, who shot Riley twice the evening of March 22, and detective Daniel Archambault, because the witness statements they relied on in their motion were unreliable.

Defense motions indicated that a witness told a detective Riley was unarmed when Morrill shot him twice in the hallway of a Knightsbridge Condominium complex building off Amherst Street. But the witness only saw the immediate aftermath of the confrontation, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Kathleen Broderick wrote in her objection.

Temple ruled that the depositions are necessary for the defense, according to court documents filed this month.

Sculimbrene also wants to depose Morrill and a police detective based on their description of the shooting.

Police say the shooting took place as Riley was swinging Morrill’s baton at him, placing Morrill in fear of being seriously injured or killed.

Jonathan Villaronga told police he thought “it wasn’t right what the officer did,” according to Sculimbrene’s motion.

“I don’t know how the law is over here, you know, but I mean the guy had no weapon on him, you know. It’s crazy,” the Villaronga said, according to the motion.

An investigation by the attorney general’s office determined Morrill’s use of force was justified. He returned to normal patrol duties after that inquiry and an internal review by Nashua police, Chief John Seusing said.

In a separate motion, Broderick asked Temple to strike Riley’s notice to the court that he may rely on the “defense of physical force in defense of a person” statute, otherwise known as the “stand your ground” law. Temple ruled that Riley simply notified prosecutors he may use that defense and arguments about its viability should take place closer to a possible trial, according to court records.

Police say Riley ran from Morrill the evening of March 22 and assaulted Morrill several times during a series of altercations and foot chases in and around the condo complex.

Riley eventually took Morrill’s baton and was in the process of swinging it toward the officer’s head when Morrill fired, police said.

Morrill, a Nashua officer since 2010, returned to patrol duty in May after several weeks of paid administrative leave and desk duty while the attorney general and Nashua police investigated the shooting. The attorney general released a report May 16 that said Morrill was justified in using deadly force because he had a reasonable belief he was in danger of death or serious injury.

Riley was indicted in April on a number of charges, including attempted first-degree assault, taking a firearm from a law enforcement officer, criminal threatening, resisting arrest and simple assault, among others, according to court documents.

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