Jailed farmer can challenge accuser’s credibility in gun case

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / February 1, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — The farmer serving a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for brandishing a handgun at a trespasser who refused to leave is pinning his hopes for early release, in part, on finally being able to attack the credibility of his accuser.

Ward Bird, 49, of Moultonborough, has been behind bars since Nov. 17. The state Supreme Court upheld his conviction for criminal threatening of a woman who had passed several “No Trespassing’’ signs.

Bird’s supporters say his defense was not legally able to challenge the credibility of the trespasser, Christine Harris, who some say has a troubled history. However, more information on Harris will be allowed to be put into the record on his behalf today at a hearing before Governor John Lynch and the Executive Council on his petition for a pardon or commutation.

Bird’s lawyer and his supporters say they will make witnesses available — including Harris’s former landlord and a parole officer. The parole officer has said “she wouldn’t know the truth if it ran over her in a truck.’’

Harris did not return calls left with her lawyer.

The landlord, Peter Curro, said he went through “eight months of hell’’ trying to evict Harris. He said she bred Rottweilers in the house in violation of the lease and left it fouled with feces and urine. His statements are supported by an animal control officer’s report.

During the eviction proceedings, Harris sought a court order to stop Curro from harassing her; the judge called her motion groundless.

Harris was convicted of animal cruelty and is appealing that conviction. The jury that convicted Bird in 2008 was not allowed to hear about her convictions because the judge deemed them irrelevant to the case.

Property and gun rights advocates have made Bird a cause. “I don’t need people using me as a cause,’’ Bird said. “I just want to be home with my family.’’

Lynch can veto the council’s action. He has said he believes pardons are warranted “only under extraordinary circumstances or a gross miscarriage of justice,’’ and opposes an unconditional pardon for Bird.