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NH court upholds conviction in handyman's death

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / October 27, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H.—The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the murder conspiracy conviction of a man accused, along with his millionaire father, of plotting the 2005 slaying of a handyman they suspected of stealing two motorcycles and a trailer.

With the court's unanimous decision, Jesse Brooks, formerly of Derry, will continue to serve a 15- to 30-year sentence for the death of 57-year-old Jack Reid. Prosecutors say Brooks recruited and paid others to bludgeon Reid to death at a Deerfield horse farm. Brooks' businessman father, John Brooks, also was convicted in the case.

In its decision, the Supreme Court rejected Jesse Brooks' contention that a witness who had brain surgery not long before testifying was incompetent to take the stand. In addition, the court said a 32-month delay in bringing Brooks to trial was partly his own fault and did not violate his speedy trial rights.

Brooks' lawyer, Andrew Schulman, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Prosecutors say John Brooks suspected Reid of taking the bikes and trailer as the elder Brooks was preparing to move from Derry to Las Vegas in 2003. The day after his father discovered the bikes missing, Jesse Brooks arranged for two friends to meet his father at a Londonderry warehouse where the motorcycles were stored; the elder Brooks told the pair he wanted Reid killed and offered them money to assist him, prosecutors say.

Jesse Brooks, who was living in California at the time, returned to New Hampshire in November 2003 and confronted Dennis Chamberlain of Salem whom he also suspected of the theft, prosecutors say. Chamberlain denied any involvement and told Brooks he didn't think Reid was involved either. That same year, Reid foiled an attempt on his life by firing at Brooks and his cohorts at Reid's home, according to the prosecution.

On June 27, 2005, John Brooks and three other men lured Reid to the horse farm with the promise of work and then beat him to death, prosecutors say. Jesse Brooks wired $1,200 the following month to John Benton. Benton has also been convicted in Reid's death.

During his trial in 2009, Jesse Brooks challenged Chamberlain's competence, saying that Chamberlain had surgery for brain cancer and that the surgery had affected his memory. But the Supreme Court ruled the testimony was admissible along with statements Chamberlain made to police before the surgery.

In his testimony, Chamberlain recalled Brooks saying he was convinced Reid had stolen the motorcycles and he had in his pocket a passport and a gun that he wasn't afraid to use.

The court ruled that evidence of Brooks' guilt was overwhelming, even in the absence of Chamberlain's testimony.

"Intermittent confusion over certain issues and questions does not necessarily render a witness incompetent," the court wrote.

The court also noted that Brooks did not file his request for a speedy trial until 15 months after his arraignment and that his lawyers agreed to two delays requested by prosecutors. In addition, the justices cited the need to first try co-defendants who had agreed to testify against Jesse Brooks.

John Brooks was the first convict in nearly 50 years to face a death sentence in New Hampshire when his case went to the sentencing phase in 2008. The jury opted for a life sentence. Jesse Brooks was the last of five defendants to go on trial for Reid's murder.