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Christopher Gribble is led to prison from Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire Friday, March 25, , 2011. (AP Photo/POOL/Don Himsel)
Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gribble files appeal of Mont Vernon murder conviction

NASHUA – Convicted killer Christopher Gribble filed an appeal of his first-degree murder conviction with the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, less than a month after being found not insane and guilty of killing Kimberly Cates.

The appeal cites 25 questions his lawyers want the high court to rule on that range from whether the Hillsborough County Superior Court trial court erred in denying Gribble’s motions to suppress his statements to police and motions to change the location of the trial, by not adopting the defense’s version of proposed jury instructions and by not dismissing certain potential jurors, according to court documents.

The appeal also reveals that Gribble’s attorneys asked Judge Gillian Abramson to declare a mistrial following one of the trial’s most memorable moments, an exchange between Gribble and lead prosecutor Jeff Strelzin.

Gribble was found guilty last month of first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and burglary and witness tampering in connection with the Oct. 4, 2009, home invasion and murder of Cates, 42, and attack on her then-11-year-old daughter, Jaimie Cates. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, a claim the jury rejected following a two-week trial.

Gribble’s public defenders, Donna Brown and Matthew Hill, filed the appeal Wednesday. Brown also filed a motion to withdraw as counsel and asked the court to appoint an appellate defender, according to the documents.

The appeal, which was posted on the state court’s website, includes an extensive list of issues the defense thinks Abramson ruled incorrectly on.

One of the questions asks whether Abramson erred by not granting a mistrial when Strelzin told Gribble “you don’t wanna know what I think,” during the state’s cross-examination of the former Boy Scout, according to the documents.

Gribble came across, at least to some, as patronizing and sarcastic to some of Strelzin’s questions, something Strelzin referenced when he asked Gribble if being arrogant makes a person insane, or whether being self-centered or brutal makes someone insane.

Gribble said there was a difference between being able to feel emotions and having an emotional connection to someone.

“There’s a difference between an emotional attachment and emotion, Mr. Strelzin,” he said. “I don’t think you like me. Do you have an emotional attachment to me?”

“Mr. Gribble, you don’t want to know what I think about you,” Strelzin retorted walking toward the witness stand.

Other questions in Gribble’s appeal cover a wide range of issues, including:

Whether the court erred when it did not force William Marks to testify when he was called by the defense.

Whether the court erred when it ordered a plain-clothes sheriff’s deputy to sit directly behind Gribble during his time on the witness stand.

Whether the court erred when it sequestered Gribble’s investigator against the defense’s objections.

Gribble was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his part in the murder. Co-murderer Steven Spader was found guilty on the same charges last year and has also appealed to the Supreme Court.

Two other men, Quinn Glover and William Marks, pleaded guilty and accepted 20-40 and 30-60 year prison sentences, respectively, for their role in the home invasion.

A fifth man, Autumn Savoy, of Hollis, has pleaded guilty to giving police a false alibi for Gribble and Spader and helping them destroy evidence. He will be sentenced later this month, likely to 5-12 years in prison.

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