Cutting Edge Litigation on Evidence Law

In State v. Morrill, 154 N.H. 547, 914 A.2d 1206 (2006), the Court reformed the “opening-the-door” doctrine, which had been much abused by trial courts. The purpose of this doctrine is to ensure that both sides get a fair trial and neither exploits the rules to mislead the jury. However, in this case as in many others, the trial judge used the doctrine to inject prejudice into the trial rather than alleviating prejudice. Based on Ted Lothstein’s arguments on appeal, the Court took what had little more than a label or mantra — “opening the door” — and transformed it into a carefully defined and limited doctrine. As a result, the Court reversed Mr. Morrill’s conviction for aggravated felonious sexual assault, and granted him a new trial.