Gonic man found innocent in heroin OD death case

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Joe Lee listens during closing arguments on Wednesday at Strafford County Superior Court. (Lebanon Voice photo)

COPYRIGHT2017© DOVER - Even the judge noted on the final day of the Joe Lee trial that the state's case against him had credibility issues.

The comment came amid motions by the defense while the jury was not in the courtroom, but proved prescient as it took that jury just two hours on Wednesday afternoon to find Lee, 58, of Gonic, innocent of supplying heroin to the woman who supplied it to 30-year-old Jason Danner of Rochester.

Danner, who was fondly known as "Captain Redbeard" by friends and acquaintances died about a week after injecting the deadly drug at his Chestnut Street apartment on June 23, 2014, and falling into a deep coma.

During Danner's weeklong treatment at Frisbie Memorial Hospital family and friends held constant vigils hoping and praying for a miracle.

Jason Danner (Courtesy)

But none came, and when a neurologist and other doctors told his parents their son had suffered massive irreversible brain damage and would likely never regain consciousness, they took him off life support.

He died on June 30, two days after being taken off a respirator and other life-sustaining equipment.

Defense attorney Tom Reid in closing arguments called on jury members to consider the lack of credibility with the state's only eye witness to the deadly June 23 heroin buy, the woman who said she bought it from Lee.

Jennifer Harriman said she purchased the heroin in a back hallway at the Northgate Apartments complex where Lee had formerly lived with a girlfriend, while Danner, his girlfriend and a driver waited outside.

But Reid said none were to be trusted in their testimony due to their dependency on heroin.

"They're all drug addicts, they all lie," he said.

Harriman pleaded guilty to supplying the heroin to Danner and could have faced life in prison, but in a plea deal got 6-12 years. Reid said part of the deal was likely made predicated on her identifying a supplier of the drug to her.

Jennifer Harriman during witness testimony last week in Joe Lee trial.

(Lebanon Voice photo)

Harriman also got 18 months off her time for testifying against Lee, prosecutor Tim Sullivan admitted in closing arguments, but added Harriman had no motive to frame Lee, which he asked the jury to consider.

But there were more problems with the state's case than credibility, Reid claimed, saying key evidence like records of phone calls Harriman said she made to Lee to buy drugs, including the fatal dose bought the morning of June 23.

In Sullivan's closing arguments, he noted while some of the witnesses may have credibility issues, they never wavered on the timeline the day Danner overdosed. They recalled leaving Harriman's house around 10 a.m., going to Northgate on Farmington Road and Harriman walking into a back hallway and returning with the drugs. Amanda Packer, who drove them, said she had time after the buy to drop everybody back at their home or apartment, return home, herself, take a shower and a small dose of heroin and check in for work at her job at Kmart by noon.

The timeline was important because a job application by Lee was entered at CoWorx, a Dover employment agency, at 11:59 a.m. on June 23.

Reid noted prior to closing arguments that these types of cases - when the state is prosecuting the person who sold to a person who sold to someone who died - are rare.

"It's crazy," he said of these types of trials. "On the one hand they're calling it a disease and on the other, they do this."

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