Of course, to the decedent, that’s the most quibbling of technicalities.
Eric Langlais is facing charges of manslaughter and felony riot after he punched James Unfonak of the band Bang N Jane in the jaw outside Gary’s Sports Bar in Rochester on Jan. 31, 2016. Unfonak, 44, of Rochester, fell to the ground and struck his head. He later died at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Jury selection for the trial against Langlais was scheduled to start Tuesday, but will not take place until at least June, according to paperwork filed at Strafford County Superior Court. Defense attorneys Richard Samdperil and Joseph Welsh, who have a law firm in Exeter, want to have Judge Mark Howard take a closer look at what the state plans to present at trial.
Prosecutor Timothy Sullivan says that during their investigation, detectives talked with witness Forrest Rollins, who was with Langlais and co-defendant Mandy Patch of Rochester on the night in question. Rollins told detectives that prior to heading to Gary’s Sports Bar, the trio listened to music at Fury’s Publick House in Dover. The group then headed to Cara Irish Pub in Dover.
Hmmm. We have punches thrown, we have a pub crawl, we certainly have circumstantial evidence that might allow us to infer the presence of Judgment Juice® in some or all of those involved. What says the evidence?
At the pub, Langlais was cut off from alcohol service, Rollins said. When Rollins went to the bathroom, there was an altercation outside between patron Marcus Thomas and a man matching the description of Langlais. Bouncers told police the man matching the description of Langlais “sucker punched” Thomas in the head, knocking him to the ground.
Police interviewed Thomas at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital and he did not want to push criminal charges, but Sullivan says the state wants to admit evidence of what happened in Dover during trial because it has a direct link to what later happened to Unfonak in Rochester.
Wait, did we get that right? The guy he killed wasn’t even the first guy he injured with his fists that night?
When someone you clobbered goes to the hospital, it’s probably a clue you should moderate your behavior and not go around clobbering people. Did he do that?
Nope, and he boasted about it:
“The defendant does not dispute in his interview that he struck the victim. He further does not dispute that he used what he described to be his ‘knock out’ fist to do so,” Sullivan wrote in a motion filed with the court. “The sole issue of the case appears to be the defendant’s mental state, thus making this evidence more probative than it might otherwise be.”
Naturally, the defense attorneys think their job is to get enough evidence tossed to keep this guy on the street committing more violent crimes. After all, no criminals, no payday for criminal lawyers.
Samdperil and Welsh argue that Sullivan wants to have the evidence of what happened to Thomas admitted to paint Langlais “as violent, prone to fighting, or a bad person” — not to prove or disprove any fact in actual dispute. They say that in order to prove manslaughter, the state must convince the jury that Langlais consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would result from his conduct, which the evidence regarding Thomas does not show.
Yeah, you shouldn’t let the jury infer that your violent, prone to fighting, bad person, is “violent, prone to fighting, or a bad person.” Why, that’s practically un-American!
The court will schedule a hearing before Howard on the matter, according to the judge’s notes in the case file.
What about Langlais’s groupies, who were with him egging him on in classical “let’s you and him fight” style, in both incidents? Well, they, too, have to answer to the law.
Patch and her sister, Laurie Henner, of Farmington were both charged with Class B felony riot for their involvement in Unfonak’s death. After Henner, Patch and Langlais were escorted from Gary’s Sports Bar for starting trouble, they waited outside for Unfonak to leave so Langlais could attack him, according to the state.
Now they’re all sorry and stuff, now that they got caught. Spare us the situational tears, kids, and pack your toothbrush.