A Hampton case sheds light on what it takes to get a restraining order in New Hampshire
A Hampton district court judge dismissed a domestic violence petition. Then, a man allegedly shot his former partner before killing himself in Salem, Massachusetts last week.
Now, the New Hampshire Judicial Branch is launching an internal investigation into the judge's decision, seeking to find out why the temporary restraining order wasn't granted.
All Things Considered host Peter Biello spoke with NHPR reporter Todd Bookman to talk through the case, the process for obtaining restraining orders in New Hampshire, and what comes next.
The basics of the case
Last Monday, a 33-year old woman from Hampton, who NHPR is not identifying, was shot as she left her job in Salem, Massachusetts around 5 p.m. Despite the gunshot wound, she survived.
The man who shot her was later found dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and identified as 55-year-old Richard Lorman. The two were previously in a relationship and has lived together. Court paperwork shows that the relationship was marred by physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The woman's previous efforts
The woman had requested a temporary order of protection against Lorman in October, also known as a restraining order.
Anyone can request a temporary restraining order based on written allegations, but to get a permanent or final restraining order, a hearing must be scheduled. That’s a bigger process where evidence is presented, and sometimes attorneys are involved.
The woman presented her case to Judge Polly Hall, with only a family member present in the courtroom. No attorneys were there, and Lorman didn't show up.
The burden of proof
Judge Hall told the woman she first needed to prove the two were in an intimate relationship.
Second, she had to show evidence that he committed an act of abuse, which isn’t just physical abuse. It could be criminal threatening, harassment or destruction of property, all of which qualify for people seeking a restraining order.
Third, Judge Hall said, the woman needed to prove Lorman presented an ongoing credible threat to her safety.
The woman submitted pictures of bruising, though the photos were from a few years before. She also talked about the psychological abuse in the relationship, recounted a recent interaction in a public park in which she said she was verbally abused, and submitted a written affidavit outlining alleged sexual abuse and physical abuse, as well repeated threats and harassing text messages
Judge Hall rejected the petition, writing that she didn’t see a credible present threat to the woman's safety.
Less than a month later, the woman was in critical condition in a hospital after being shot in head.
Words from domestic violence advocates
Advocates agree that something was mishandled here, with serious consequences.
NHPR spoke with Mary Krueger, who is with New Hampshire Legal Assistance, which operates a Domestic Violence Advocacy Project. While she declined to comment on the specifics of the case, she noted that ultimately, in every case like this, a judge has to interpret a lot of claims and allegations in a short amount of time.
The judicial branch’s review of the case is supposed to be wrapped up this week. At some point, that review will be released to the public.
If you are experiencing domestic or sexual violence, there is help available 24-hours a day by calling 1-866-644-3574 to reach the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.