State's top court to review appeal of Armando Barron murder conviction

·4 min read

Jul. 28—Editor's note: This story includes descriptions of violence.

The N.H. Supreme Court said in an order Wednesday it will review Jaffrey resident Armando Barron's conviction on charges, including first-degree murder, in the death of Jonathan Amerault of Keene.

Barron, who a jury this spring found guilty of murdering Amerault, 25, in 2020, appealed his conviction to the state's top court in June in an effort to get his life sentence overturned.

The appeal of his case qualifies as a "mandatory appeal" and was automatically accepted for review by the N.H. Supreme Court, Susan Warner, the communications manager for the state courts, said in an email Wednesday.

After a two-week trial in May, a Cheshire County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding Barron, 32, guilty of a slew of crimes including first-degree murder. A day later, Judge Elizabeth Leonard sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder charge.

Prosecutors said during the trial that on the night of Sept. 19, 2020, Armando Barron flew into a rage upon learning his wife, Britany Barron, was flirting with Amerault. In hours of testimony, Britany Barron said her husband assaulted her, ordered her to kill Amerault and fatally shot Amerault himself when she refused.

On top of the life sentence, Leonard sentenced Armando Barron to 45 years in prison on charges of kidnapping, two counts of criminal solicitation of murder, two counts of criminal solicitation of first-degree assault and second-degree assault. In June, she sentenced him to at least another decade behind bars on domestic-violence charges that he assaulted his wife on the night he murdered Amerault.

In a 101-page appeal filed with the N.H. Supreme Court on June 27, Armando Barron's public defenders, Meredith Lugo and Morgan Taggart-Hampton, listed 24 questions to be raised on appeal, including whether the court erred in allowing the jury to hear about Amerault's pleas for his life and expert testimony regarding shoe impressions.

Prior to the trial, Lugo and Taggart-Hampton objected to prosecutors' arguments that statements Britany Barron said Amerault made before his death should be admissible as evidence. The defense argued that the statements should be excluded because Britany Barron was the only witness to them and "has a clear motive to lie." (Britany Barron pleaded guilty in Grafton County Superior Court in September to three counts of falsifying evidence for her actions after Amerault's murder, and was later granted parole. The defense alleged during Armando Barron's trial that Britany, not her husband, shot and killed Amerault.)

Judge Leonard, however, in an April order, said the statements qualified as "excited utterances" — statements made while under the stress and excitement caused by a startling event or condition — and were therefore admissible.

Britany Barron told police that Amerault begged for his life after Armando Barron lured him to Annett Wayside Park in Rindge, confronted him with a gun, assaulted him, tried to force her to shoot him, and told her to place her foot on his throat and to slit his wrists.

"He was still begging him just stop," Britany told police, according to court documents included in Armando Barron's appeal. "He's like, 'I won't tell anybody. I'll never see her again, I promise you, just let me go. Like please let me live.' "

The appeal also questions expert testimony by Emily Rice, a criminalist at the N.H. State Police Forensic Laboratory. Rice said during the trial that her analysis showed the bruising on Amerault's forehead and left cheek could have been made by a pair of blue Nike sneakers seized from the Barrons' home.

Armando Barron's attorneys had argued before the trial that Rice's testimony would be irrelevant, but Leonard overruled them, according to court documents.

After briefs have been filed, the Supreme Court determines whether an appealed case will be scheduled for oral arguments or can be decided on the briefs alone, according to the N.H. Judicial Branch's website. Then, the website states, the court issues a final decision, which may be a short and succinct order, an order with an extensive explanation or a full written opinion.

Ryan Spencer can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1412, or rspencer@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @rspencerKS