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100 balk at being jurors in murder case

Christopher Gribble sat with his attorneys in Hillsborough County Superior Court yesterday as jury selection began. Many potential jurors said they may have trouble serving in the case. Gribble has invoked an insanity defense. Christopher Gribble sat with his attorneys in Hillsborough County Superior Court yesterday as jury selection began. Many potential jurors said they may have trouble serving in the case. Gribble has invoked an insanity defense. (Don Himsel/ Associated Press)
By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / March 1, 2011

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NASHUA, N.H. — More than 100 potential jurors say they would have trouble serving on a panel that will decide whether a man was insane when he hacked a mother to death and maimed her 11-year-old daughter during a Mont Vernon invasion.

Christopher Gribble admits he participated in the Oct. 4, 2009, killing of Kimberly Cates and the attack on her daughter, Jaimie, but says he was insane at the time.

Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson told about 130 potential jurors that Gribble, 21, bears the burden of convincing them that he was insane when he broke into Cates’s Mont Vernon home and hacked the mother and daughter with a knife.

The judge said the trial is expected to begin March 14 and last about two weeks. It has been more than half a century since a New Hampshire jury has found a suspect not guilty by reason of insanity.

More than 100 of those gathered raised their hands when asked by the judge if anyone would have trouble serving on the jury. Abramson then conducted bench conferences with each of them individually to hear the nature of their concerns and consider whether they should be excused.

The two dozen or so who said they would have no problem were given appointments to return for individual questioning under oath.

Steven Spader of Brookline, who wielded a machete during the attacks, was convicted by a jury in November and is serving two life sentences for murder and attempted murder.

Abramson told the potential jurors that even if they find Gribble not guilty by reason of insanity, he could still spend the rest of his life in the secure psychiatric unit of the state prison if he is deemed to be a danger to the community.

He is charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and burglary, and witness tampering.