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alexand

alexand

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Published by Chris Buck

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Published by: Chris Buck on Jun 05, 2010
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02/01/2013

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NOTICE: This opinion is subject to motions for rehearing under
Rule 22 as well as formal revision before publication in the New
Hampshire Reports. Readers are requested to notify the
Clerk/Reporter, Supreme Court of New Hampshire, Supreme Court
Building, Concord, New Hampshire 03301, of any errors in order
that corrections may be made before the opinion goes to press.
Opinions are available on the Internet by 9:00 a.m. on the
morning of their release. The direct address of the court's home
page is: http://www.state.nh.us/courts/supreme.htm

THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
___________________________
Sullivan
No. 96-339
THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
v.
STEVEN ALEXANDER
December 23, 1998
Philip T. McLaughlin, attorney general (Malinda R. Lawrence,
attorney, on the brief and orally), for the State.
Gary Apfel, assistant appellate defender, of Orford, by brief
and orally, for the defendant.

BRODERICK, J. After a jury trial in Superior Court (Morrill,
J.), the defendant, Steven Alexander, was convicted of arson,
see RSA 634:1, II(a) (1996), for setting fire to the apartment
building in which he resided. On appeal, the defendant argues
that the trial court erred: (1) in limiting his cross-
examination of two prosecution witnesses; (2) in denying his
motion to dismiss based on insufficient evidence; and (3) in
fashioning certain instructions to the jury when it appeared to
be deadlocked. We affirm.

At trial, the State presented the following evidence. In July
1993, the defendant rented a second floor apartment in the Eagle
Block in Newport. On July 24, 1993, the day before the fire, the
defendant and Debra Porter, a second floor neighbor, had an
argument about Porter playing her stereo loudly. The defendant
responded by playing his radio loudly as well, and the two
exchanged profanities. When the police arrived, Porter turned
her music down as instructed, and the two had no further contact
that day.

On July 25, 1993, the day of the fire, Porter left her apartment
at 2:20 p.m. and locked both apartment doors, which were then
undamaged. Around three o'clock, the defendant stopped at a
convenience store, an approximate ten to fifteen minute drive
from the Eagle Block. The store's cashier testified that she
received a phone call from an unidentified man who requested the
store owner's phone number. A few minutes later she received a
call from the owner telling her that Steven Alexander, who was
unknown to the owner, would be coming to the store to charge a
few items on store credit. The cashier testified that the
defendant was acting "a little strange." He insisted that he
knew the cashier, telling her not to deny that she knew him. He
also asserted that he knew or was related to the owner, and that
the owner had given him permission to charge wine. The cashier
called the owner, who instructed her not to charge the wine.
Following this, the defendant charged cigarettes and $3.00 worth
of gasoline. At the owner's instruction, the cashier recorded
the defendant's telephone and license plate numbers.

Between four and five o'clock, another tenant, Betty Andrews,
who lived down the hall from the defendant, returned to her
apartment with her boyfriend, Michael Tassinari. Within fifteen
to thirty minutes, Andrews smelled gasoline. Unable to determine
its source, she and Tassinari stepped into the hallway where
they detected a very strong gasoline odor, but saw no smoke.
While in the hallway, Andrews noticed the defendant leave and
lock his apartment while holding something in his arms. When
Andrews asked if he could smell gasoline, the defendant
responded "no," acting "kind of shaky" or "nervous" as he walked
toward the back door. Andrews returned to her apartment and
promptly called the police to report the odor. During the call,
the building's smoke alarms activated. Police dispatch received
this call at 5:23 p.m. Andrews returned to the hallway, saw
smoke coming from the direction of Porter's apartment, and made
a second call to the police to report the fire.

At approximately 4:30 p.m., Neal Goldberg, a tenant who lived
across the hall from the defendant, heard "constant banging"
near Porter's apartment, which continued for several minutes.
Goldberg assumed that someone was working on a door. At about
five o'clock, several individuals in a meeting room located
directly below Porter's apartment heard a crash, along with
banging and scuffling noises coming from Porter's apartment.
Shortly thereafter, they saw the defendant make two or three
rapid trips up and down the outside staircase, removing various
items from the building, including clothes and soda. After the
defendant's third trip at approximately 5:20 p.m., a member of
the group detected smoke, went outside, and witnessed the
building engulfed in flames.

Hearing the smoke alarms, Goldberg fled his apartment and saw
the defendant descending the staircase. While departing,
Goldberg noticed a large hole in Porter's apartment door. It
appeared to him that the apartment had been broken into.

At the scene, the police arrested the defendant for interfering
with rescue efforts by encouraging a woman trapped on the roof
to jump. The police released the defendant from custody but
arrested him a second time, subduing him with pepper spray, when
he continued to interfere with rescue efforts and disobey law
enforcement. The police transported the defendant to the police
station where he admitted to purchasing cigarettes and gasoline
for his car that afternoon at a local convenience store. He
claimed, however, that the Eagle Block was in flames when he
returned. He denied being in or removing items from the building
just prior to or at the time of the fire.

Through its investigation, the State Fire Marshall's office
determined that the Eagle Block blaze was the result of arson,
which began in Porter's apartment with gasoline used as an

accelerant.
IThe defendant first argues that the trial court's refusal to

permit him to cross-examine Michael Tassinari and Betty Andrews
regarding motive and bias violated his right of confrontation
under the State and Federal Constitutions and constituted an
abuse of discretion under New Hampshire Rule of Evidence 403.

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