Review: NH judge acted correctly in denying domestic violence petition before murder-suicide attempt

SALEM, Mass. — An internal review by the New Hampshire Judicial Branch conducted after a judge denied one woman’s domestic violence petition weeks before an attempted murder-suicide occurred in Salem has concluded. That review found that the judge acted appropriately in both the decision she reached as well as the manner in which the final hearing was conducted.

“The final hearing was conducted in accordance with all applicable laws and protocols, as well as the principles of procedural fairness and proper judicial conduct,” the Internal Review Committee wrote in the official review. “Additionally [...] the court’s decision to deny a final protective order represented a reasonable application of current New Hampshire law to the facts of the case as [the judge] understood them.”

>>>PREVIOUS: N.H. judicial branch conducting internal review after attempted murder-suicide in Salem, MA

At 5 p.m. Monday, November 15, 33-year-old Lindsay Smith was shot in the head as she left her job at Doyle’s Sailmakers in Salem. Authorities say the gunman, identified as 55-year-old Richard Lorman, turned the gun on himself and took his own life. Smith and Lorman lived together in a condo in Hampton, N.H., court records show.

On September 21, Smith applied for a restraining order against Lorman. She claimed in a statement that Lorman had sexually and physically abused her. She wrote in her statement that Lorman tracked her on her cellphone to Marblehead, Mass. where he verbally abused her at the Marblehead Lighthouse. Smith claimed he yelled at her, “I’m going to turn your world upside down!”

The statement also accused Lorman of harassing Smith’s family as it reads, “his behavior seems to be escalating…[the victim] and therapist….very concerned that he will resort to violence in this mindset where he has lost control.”

N.H. Circuit Court Judge Polly Hall granted a 30-day restraining order to Smith on September 21, 2021. On October 20, 2021, Judge Hall dismissed the case against Lorman, finding, “The Court cannot find that the defendant’s conduct constitutes a credible present threat to plaintiff’s safety.”

>>>PREVIOUS: 1 dead, 1 hospitalized in attempted murder-suicide in Salem

After learning of the attempted murder-suicide, New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald ordered the internal review, which was led by Circuit Court Judge Susan B. Carbon. The judicial branch described Judge Carbon as, “a nationally recognized expert on domestic violence and a former director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice.”

The Internal Review Committee also released seven recommendations to the N.H. Judicial Branch for ways that court practices relating to domestic violence could be improved. The Committee wrote the following:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive review of protection-order-related forms to ensure that the forms provide clear guidance to the public about the legal standards for obtaining an order, assist parties in explaining their experiences in the context of those standards, and help judges more readily analyze requests for protection.
  2. Develop easy-to-use tools to ensure that survivors of intimate partner violence are aware of, and can easily access, all protection order options, including domestic violence and stalking orders of protection, divorce and parenting restraining orders, and civil restraining orders issued by the Superior Court.
  3. Work with relevant stakeholders to update the legal definition of “abuse” to reflect the current understanding about the nature of intimate partner violence and the risk factors for further violence.
  4. Increase awareness of non-precedential Supreme Court opinions in protection order cases among attorneys, advocates, and the public so that they can better understand how courts are interpreting and applying RSA chapter 173-B and respond appropriately.
  5. Provide clear guidance to plaintiffs and defendants in protection order cases about what to expect at the final hearing, what legal standards the court will apply, and how to prepare for the hearing.
  6. Explore what steps the court system can take to ensure that survivors of intimate partner violence receive the assistance of both legal counsel and victim advocates at protection order hearings and in appellate proceedings.
  7. Offer training by court personnel to victim advocates and others who assist survivors in completing protection order petitions and preparing for hearings on how courts review and decide protection order cases.

>>>MORE: Woman injured in attempted murder-suicide in Salem doing ‘miraculously well’

The New Hampshire Judicial Branch is also forming a task force to undergo a systemic review of its domestic violence cases in the court system. That task force - which was announced the same day that the internal review was ordered - will be led by New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi.

“In addition to representatives from the Judicial Branch, the task force will include a broad range of domestic violence stakeholders including the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence [NHCADSV], law enforcement, prosecutors, defense counsel, and others,” the judicial branch wrote Thursday. “The Task Force will seek assistance from national court consultants, with expertise in domestic and sexual violence.”

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