CONCORD — Former State Senator Jeffrey Woodburn is appealing his conviction in his domestic violence case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Woodburn, 56, a Whitefield Democrat, is asking the state’s high court to rule that Coos County Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein erred in refusing to allow him to argue self-defense.
The appeal also challenges the lower court’s decision not to allow evidence about the victim, his former fiancée’s, alleged prior aggression against Woodburn.
Woodbury filed his notice of appeal Thursday, one day before he was due to start serving his 60-day sentence.
He had announced his intention to appeal immediately after his conviction last month on one count of domestic violence, one count of simple assault, and two counts for criminal mischief. All of the charges are Class A misdemeanors. He remains free on bail pending appeal.
The Supreme Court has not accepted the case but timely appeals of a trial court decision are automatically accepted for appellate review.
Woodburn was charged with a total of nine counts against his then-fiancée, Emily Jacobs, but the jury found him guilty of four charges and not guilty of the remaining five.
He was found guilty of biting Jacobs as well as kicking her dryer door and kicking in the door to her home.
He was found not guilty of throwing a cup of water at Jacobs’ face, punching her in the stomach, trespassing and a separate incident of biting her.
All of the incidents occurred between December 2017 and June 2018.
In his appeal notice, Woodburn argues the court erred in excluding evidence of the victim’s history of using force. He is also challenging the court’s decision not to allow the defense to cross-examine Jacobs about whether two recordings she made of conversations with Woodburn without his knowledge were criminal acts. The defense claims it was also prevented from accusing Jacobs of the theft of Woodburn’s journal which was recovered from her house under a search warrant obtained by the N.H. Attorney General’s office.
Woodburn argues the trial court sealed or redacted several pleadings and the notice states the defendant objects “to the continued sealing and redacting of any documents in his case.”
The appeal also contests the court’s decision denying the defense the right to challenge jurors who were victims of domestic violence.
Woodburn’s defense attorney, Donna Brown, has filed a motion to withdraw from the case and for appointment of appellate counsel.
While Woodburn has indicated he will file a notice of recusal to disqualify certain members of the court, Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald has already recused himself from the case. MacDonald was Attorney General when his office prosecuted the case.
Once the case is accepted by the high court, the parties will be given an opportunity to file written briefs. The court will then decide whether to schedule oral arguments.
The defense also complained that a jail sentence in a misdemeanor domestic violence case for a first offender with no prior criminal record is unprecedented.
Woodburn was arrested in August 2018. At the time, he was the Senate Minority Leader and Jacobs was head of the Coos County Democratic Party and a candidate for Coos County Treasurer. Neither candidate won their respective elections in 2018.
The parties agreed to bypass district court and have the case heard in Superior Court. Legal maneuvering and COVID-19 delayed the trial until this May.
Nancy West of InDepthNH.org contributed to this article.