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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Corey Furgal enters courtroom 8 at the Hillsborough County Superior Courthouse in Nashua Monday, April5, 2010.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Corey Furgal enters courtroom 8 at the Hillsborough County Superior Courthouse in Nashua Monday, April5, 2010.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel Detective Steven Puckett refers to photographs during Monday's bail hearing for Corey Furgal in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bail issues for accused murderer

NASHUA – A lawyer for a man charged in a Halloween party killing expects the state Supreme Court will eventually settle the issue of bail for accused killers.

Corey Furgal, 24, of 16 Bel-Air Ave., Merrimack, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges after allegedly stabbing Christopher Vydfol, 20, of Nashua on Nov. 1. He has been held without bail since his arrest that morning, and his lawyers, Paul Borchardt, of Nashua, and Joseph Malfitani, of Stratham, have argued that the state law barring judges from allowing bail for defendants facing possible life sentences is unconstitutional.

On Monday, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge William Groff heard arguments from both sides and will eventually issue a ruling.

Borchardt said after the hearing that he expects whichever side comes out on the losing end of Groff’s decision will seek to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Furgal is challenging RSA 597-1c, which states, “Any person arrested for an offense punishable by up to life in prison, where the proof is evident or the presumption great, shall not be allowed bail.”

Furgal’s lawyers argue that it’s unconstitutional for a judge to set bail based only on the offense itself and the strength of the state’s case, without considering whether a particular defendant is actually dangerous or likely to flee or considering that person’s ties to the community.

On Monday, Borchardt pointed to about two rows of people, including Furgal’s grandparents, who were there to support Furgal and who have been at all of his hearings, he said.

“This is as much of a tie to the community as any I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Furgal’s grandparents declined to comment after the hearing.

Assistant Attorney General Mike Lewis argued there is simply no constitutional mandate that judges consider anything but the state’s case when considering bail, making the state law perfectly legal. An examination of a person’s ties to the community or how dangerous he or she is, is not a part of a person’s due process rights, Lewis said.

Most of Monday’s hearing though didn’t focus on the constitutional debate but rather on witness testimony of what happened at the Bedford Road party.

State Trooper Steven Puckett, a detective with the state police Major Crimes Unit, testified about his review of the case, including eye-witness testimony and the transcript of Furgal’s 16-hour interrogation.

Witnesses told police that Furgal was asked to empty his pockets on a back porch after an iPod went missing. He refused and there was a scuffle, during which Furgal allegedly brandished a knife, witnesses told police.

Later, Furgal and Vydfol were walking down the driveway and Furgal plunged the 4-inch blade about 3.5-inches into Vydfol’s chest, perforating his heart, Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said Monday.

When police arrived, the host of the party, Robert Brackett, was chasing Furgal with a baseball bat. During the chase, Furgal allegedly dumped the knife by the front steps of a home across the street, rang the doorbell there seeking help and then ran back toward police who had arrived for the reported stabbing, police said.

Several witnesses told police Vydfol intervened to end the confrontation, Puckett said.

Furgal felt threatened and was outnumbered, Borchardt said. He told Groff his client has a “considerable” self-defense claim.

If Groff allows bail to be set, Borchardt said he will argue for $50,000 cash or surety bail

Morrell said the state would still argue for a high bail based on Furgal’s criminal history and the charges against him. His criminal history began in 2003, Morrell said, and includes a conviction for possession of a controlled drug, as well as bail, parole and probation violation charges.

Furgal’s lawyers are reviving arguments made previously in the case of Darryll Bifano, who in 2008 was convicted in the beating death of Stephen Grodske in Laconia. Bifano’s appeal on the same bail issue reached the state Supreme Court. Before the court ruled on the matter, the case became moot when Bifano pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.