New trial sought in 2012 Nashua negligent homicide case
NASHUA – Although he admitted saying both his trial lawyers “are very good lawyers,” James Bazinet, the Massachusetts man convicted in 2016 of negligent homicide in a drunk-driving crash in Nashua that killed his passenger, nevertheless sought on Monday to convince a judge that at least one of them failed to represent him effectively, so he should therefore be granted a new trial.
“The point I’m trying to make is that much of the strategy they used, I did not agree with … I believe my strategy would have been better,” Bazinet told Judge Jacalyn Colburn, referring to attorneys Michael Davidow and Steve Rosecan.
Had he realized that at the time, Bazinet added, referring to Rosecan, “I would have fired him.”
Monday’s hearing on Bazinet’s motion for a new trial was a resumption of the hearing that began in late May in Hillsborough County Superior Court-South.
While Davidow testified earlier, Rosecan resumed his testimony Monday, picking up from where the proceedings left off in May.
Bazinet, 55, filed the motion for a new trial, claiming ineffective representation of counsel, meaning he contends Davidow and Rosecan fell short of the constitutional standard for providing an adequate defense.
The negligent homicide charge accuses Bazinet of driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.267 on Dec. 1, 2012, the night he crashed his fiancee’s Dodge Charger into a tree and stone wall across from 5 Searles Road in Nashua.
His fiancee, Sheryl Laitinen, who was in the front passenger seat, sustained fatal injuries in the crash. Bazinet suffered serious injuries, but survived, albeit with a lingering brain injury that Rosecan said at the time continues to affect his memory, speech and emotions.
A jury convicted Bazinet on the negligent homicide charge in March 2016. He was sentenced about two months later to a State Prison term of five to 10 years.
Colburn said at the conclusion of the roughly one-hour hearing that she would issue a ruling in a timely fashion.
Bazinet, who is representing himself, asserted his Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights “were broken” in the course of the case, and ventured further into constitutional law.
“The Bill of Rights protects me … but it did not” in this case, he told the court. “I ask the court to see the unfairness and give me a chance for a new trial.”
Bazinet asked Rosecan if he believed his case “slowly fell apart … because the strategy wasn’t helping,” to which Rosecan responded “no, I think (the case) was coming together,” in part, he said, because “despite the (prosecution’s) overwhelming evidence, I felt there was reasonable doubt” that Bazinet was guilty as charged.
The prosecutor, Assistant County Attorney Nicole Thorspecken, raised several objections while Bazinet was questioning Rosecan, most of them the result of Bazinet’s habit of straying outside the lines of questioning.
Thorspecken objected, for instance, when Bazinet asked Rosecan if “you believe you were making God-like decisions, without God-like skills?” She also objected when Bazinet suggested Rosecan “was unsure how to handle this case … (but) you found a way to make sure it seemed reasonable,” and again when he alleged “politics were involved” and asked Rosecan whether he and David Tencza, the prosecutor in the case, were friends.
While Rosecan acknowledged “mistakes may have been made” in his and Davidow’s handling of the case, he indicated it is not uncommon for lawyers to look back over lengthy cases and find things they could have done differently.
In his “closing argument,” Bazinet told the court he feels confident “the outcome (of his trial) would have been a lot different if my testimony was allowed,” a reference to his claims his lawyers did not consider his suggestions for trial strategy.
Thorspecken, in her response, said Bazinet “failed to show their representation fell below constitutional standards … I think he just didn’t like the outcome.”
She said she doesn’t believe Rosecan and Davidow “could have done any more than they did,” noting the 50-plus motions they filed and the fact the trial went for five days.
“I don’t know what more they could have done,” she added.