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January 12, 2008

Judge: Brooks' defense needs explanation

BRENTWOOD, N.H. - John "Jay" Brooks can't claim self-defense at his capital murder trial unless his lawyers first elaborate on events leading to Jack Reid's death, a judge ruled yesterday.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Robert Lynn ruled defense lawyers must provide "some evidence" to support their theory about Reid's death on June 27, 2005.

Brooks, now of Las Vegas, faces the death penalty on charges of planning Reid's murder, then striking a final hammer blow to his chest. Reid, 57, of Derry was killed at a Deerfield horse farm. His body was found in the back of his own truck in a department store parking lot in Saugus, Mass.

Before Brooks struck Reid, prosecutors said, Michael Benton, 31, hit Reid in the head with the hammer several times. Brooks' lawyers claim Benton acted in self-defense, so Brooks can't be blamed for Reid's death.

It's unclear whether the judge's decision will have any impact on Benton.

Earlier in the week, prosecutors argued that Brooks had to do more than cite the law that allows a self-defense claim. Assistant Attorney General Karen Huntress said Brooks is required to provide some kind of summary as to why he can't be convicted of Reid's murder.

"We're not looking for a detailed recitation of facts," she said. "What we're asking for is more than what they submitted,"

Brooks' lawyers said they didn't need to provide more facts to support their argument.

Defense lawyer Tom Hoopes declined to comment yesterday on Lynn's decision. The judge gave Brooks' lawyers 10 days to provide a fuller account of how Reid provoked a violent response.

Hoopes also argued before Lynn this week that the state has been delinquent in providing all the evidence they will need to mount an adequate defense for Brooks. Assistant Attorney General Kirsten Wilson said some of the information the defense team wants goes beyond the obligation of the state.

Brooks' lawyers want to know how often and when authorities met with codefendant Joseph Vrooman of Whitwell, Tenn., along with others. Lynn has yet to rule on the matter.

Five men have been charged with Reid's murder. Brooks son, Jesse, 31, and Robin Knight, 56, a contractor from North Hampton who worked for Brooks in Las Vegas, face charges of conspiracy to commit capital murder.

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