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Thanking public servants in trial

At the conclusion of jury trials, regardless of the verdict, it is customary for judges to thank jurors for their service and attentiveness.

But who thanks judges when they preside over a bench trial?

We all should, especially in a case like the one Judge Charles Temple just presided over.

Temple was the judge in Hillsborough County Superior Court South who heard the second-degree murder trial of Katlyn Marin. There was no jury – just Temple, who found Marin guilty on Monday of killing her 3-year-old daughter, Brielle Gage, in November 2014. Her lawyers say they will appeal.

Even before the verdict, the child’s death had been a landmark tragedy for the state, resulting in changes to New Hampshire’s child protection laws and heightened scrutiny of the Department of Children, Youth and Families. People were outraged that Brielle and her siblings had been removed from their mother’s custody earlier in the year, but then returned to their mother’s Oak Street apartment by order of a judge.

Brielle’s death was also a factor in the state’s decision to hire a company to audit DCYF and determine whether the systems that are in place to protect children are adequate to the task.

"Deeper analysis is now needed by an independent reviewer, with significant expertise in evaluating child protection systems, to ensure the state is well-positioned to design system improvements that will best serve and protect New Hampshire’s children," Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers wrote in a March 3 letter.

A report could come as early as September. When it does, we hope it is made public.

The trial shed light on a side of society that most children never experience, fortunately, but too many do right here in New Hampshire.

"Brielle had in excess of 150 separate bruises on her body," state Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Andrew told defense lawyer Justin Shepherd during cross-examination on the sixth day of the trial. "So yes," he said in response to Shepherd’s question, "the injuries (that caused her death) could have come from two separate assaults."

According to the testimony, there scarcely seemed a part of the child’s body that hadn’t suffered.

Andrew presented a chilling narrative of his post-mortem exam, beginning with bruises and injuries to her face, teeth, lips and tongue.

"I saw extensive hemorrhaging … two (bruises) filled with blood, a large hematoma underneath the lining of the brain on the entire left side" of her head, Andrew told the court.

Brielle’s brain had swelled to the point of "herniating," or rupturing, itself, in her skull, Andrew continued.

And then there were the two broken ribs and bruises on her arms, a forearm and her hands. A thumb and two fingers also were bruised and discolored.

On Brielle’s legs, Andrew said he found more groupings of bruises, lacerations on both her knees, more bruises on her feet and a broken toe.

It couldn’t have been easy to sit though much of the testimony or compile the evidence that backed it up. Little wonder some members of the Nashua Police Department – which worked with the attorney general’s office on the investigation – wept when Temple delivered his verdict Monday.

Judge Temple, the Nashua police officers who did their jobs, the prosecutors from the attorney general’s office, the medical examiner’s office and all of their staffs – they all deserve our gratitude.