This Week in N.H. News: Privacy Rights on Trial, Politicians' Pet Peeves on Display

Sep 23, 2016

Happy fall! Here's some stories you can relay as you're apple picking or sitting around a bonfire this weekend. (Or, you know, watching Netflix at home with a pumpkin spice latte, if that's more your thing.) And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get these and other headlines delivered right to your inbox each week. You can do that right here.

Above The Fold

Another Side Effect of the Drug Crisis: A Big Pile of Backlogged Cases at the State Crime Lab

Just how much does it take to prompt a fatal overdose? These are the lethal doses of heroin and fentanyl, on display at the state crime lab.
Credit Paige Sutherland, NHPR

Roughly 3,500 backlogged cases, in fact. Part of it has to do with the rise in drug cases overall, but part of it also has to do with a new state policy treating fatal overdoses as crime scenes, which creates additional work for officials who have to analyze that evidence.

“If we were to receive no additional cases on an average of 550 cases analyzed each month, we are talking about 7 months just to clear up the backlog,” the lab’s director told NHPR on Thursday. Read the story.

For Bhutanese Refugees Displaced in Manchester Fire, Trauma Remains Fresh

Late one night in early August, a four-story apartment building in Manchester went up in smoke — displacing nearly 20 people, most of whom were Bhutanese refugees. For those who already had to overcome many obstacles just to settle in Manchester in the first place, picking up the pieces after the fire has been especially tough. Read the story.

Why One Case in N.H. Could Have Big Implications For Sexual Assault Victims’ Privacy Nationwide

Should lawyers be allowed to disclose personal information about someone who was raped, like their sexual history, during criminal proceedings? That’s essentially the question that came before the New Hampshire Supreme Court this week, as part of the appeal process for Seth Mazzaglia, a Dover man convicted of raping and killing 19-year-old UNH student Lizzi Marriott in 2012.

Mazzaglia’s lawyers argued that such information is critical to his defense case, but victims’ rights advocates have cautioned that allowing those details to be public could set a bad precedent for cases across the country — and potentially have a chilling effect preventing people from reporting sexual assaults in the future. Get more on that story.

After Dover Lawsuit, What’s Next For School Funding?

Dover wasn’t the only district with a stake in the outcome of the recent ruling that found New Hampshire was unconstitutionally capping payments to fast-growing schools across the state. Over in Bedford, the superintendent says his district lost out on some $4 million in state aid last year because of that cap — and they’re ready to move forward with their own legal action against the stat, if needed. Get the story.

For Citizens, Police Radio Silence in Manchester

This month, the Manchester Police Department started encrypting its police radio transmitters — meaning that average person can no longer tune into a police scanner (old school or on an app) to hear what kind of calls are coming in. The decision’s been criticized by some who see it as a blow to transparency, but the department says it’s necessary to protect officer safety and citizens’ privacy, despite the fact that other large departments in New Hampshire still keep their airwaves mostly open. Learn more

In #NHpolitics News...
Credit Allegra Boverman, NHPR

Money, Money, Money

We still have more than a month ’til election day — but already, New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race between Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan has blown past the spending record set two years ago in the high-profile contest between Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen.

In 2014, for the entirety of the race, Shaheen and Brown — and the outside groups supporting or attacking them — poured a whopping $54 million into the campaign. This year? Ayotte, Hassan and outside groups have spent a collective $59 million. And it’s not even October. Get the story.

What Happens When Two Guys Who’ve Spent Four Years Working (Literally) Side-By-Side Have to Run Against Each Other?

Well, for one, you can be sure that they come into the race knowing a lot about each other’s voting records — and annoying personal habits

That kind of familiarity was on full display when Chris Sununu and Colin Van Ostern met for their first forum as New Hampshire gubernatorial opponents this week. The forum was held at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm college, and was a partnership between NHPR, the New Hampshire Business Review and New Hampshire Business and Industry Association.

You can listen to (or watch) the full conversation right here.

Before the forum, we asked you what you would ask the two candidates, if given the chance. You sent us a bunch of great suggestions — and a few of them ended up in the conversation. Catch up on the candidates’ responses right here.

And if you missed out on getting your question in this week, you’ll have plenty more chances with future candidate forums. Next week, we’ll sit down with Gov. Maggie Hassan — so if there’s something you’d love to ask her (about her policies, personal experiences or otherwise), we’d love to hear from you. Click here to ask a question

O’Connor: 2; N.H. Dems: 0

For the second time in as many weeks, New Hampshire’s Ballot Law Commission rejected a move by the state Democratic party challenging the candidacy of Shawn O’Connor, who’s trying to run as an independent in the First Congressional District.

O’Connor initially ran as a Democrat in the primary against Carol Shea-Porter but switched to running as an Independent after an earlier feud with party officials.

As for the people weighing in on the Democrats’ challenge, New Hampshire’s Deputy Secretary of State saw it as a blatantly political move: “I know the Democratic Party has a political objective here and that's to have a certain candidate not appear on the ballot.”

Also Worth A Click

It’s not surprising that many of the medicines we use today are derived from plants. The surprising part is how similar the molecular components of plants are to the building blocks of our own human, mammalian bodies.

This week, the Outside/In team dives head first into a vat of soybean oil with Dr. Percy Julian who, against all odds, became one of the most prominent chemists of his time and whose work paved the way for the birth control pill. Plus, why the cone snail and its deadly neurotoxin just might be the key to a pain free future.

Listen to the podcast here, or subscribe on iTunes and never miss an episode! And if you want to watch the very cool video teased above, click right here.