CONCORD, N.H. — Allegations that an inmate brutally assaulted his public defender at a county jail have highlighted differences in how facilities across New Hampshire handle attorney-client meetings.
Dale Holloway, 37, of Manchester, was charged with first-degree assault Monday after authorities say he attacked attorney Michael Davidow at the Hillsborough County House of Corrections, known informally as the Valley Street jail. Police said the lawyer ended up in intensive care with severe head injuries. Holloway, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday, denied assaulting Davidow and said the lawyer had a nosebleed.
Holloway, who does not have a new attorney, was meeting Davidow about separate charges, to which he pleaded not guilty last week. He is charged with attempted murder, assault, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm in the shooting of a pastor and bride during a wedding.
Stanley Choate, 75, the presiding bishop, was shot in the chest. Claire McMullen, 60, was shot in the arm.
The men were in an unmonitored room at the jail, and the closest officer was at a desk facing away from the room, according to jail officials. Attorneys generally turn the lights on and off or tap the glass to get the officer’s attention to take away the inmate when a meeting ends, officials told police. In this case, the officer heard a knock and turned to see Holloway standing up and Davidow seated at the table, with his hands over his face and blood dripping onto the floor.
With no state protocols for such meetings, the state’s 10 county jails vary in their approach.
In Belknap County, jail Superintendent Keith Gray said there is a room set up for attorney-client meetings that is monitored via video cameras, without audio, so as not to interfere with confidential discussions.
‘‘There may have been times when some meetings were cut short because the defendant wasn’t happy with what he was hearing, but I don’t recall anyone being assaulted,’’ said Keith Gray, who has worked at the facility for 16 years.
Jason Henry, superintendent at the Carroll County jail, also said there haven’t been any assaults in his facility, but it could happen any time.
‘‘It doesn’t take much for an inmate to get ahold of someone,’’ he said.
In his building, there are several areas where attorneys can meet with inmates, including one large room monitored with cameras and other rooms where officers are nearby. Attorneys also have the option of being separated from inmates by glass, he said, but they usually want to sit with their clients in a private room.
‘‘This is where it’s hard for corrections,’’ he said. ‘‘They don’t want us in the room, but we try to be nearby.’’
In cases where corrections staff notice an inmate is agitated or angry, they will speak to the attorney ahead of time and plan to stay in the room, he said.
David Berry, superintendent of the Sullivan County jail, said the location of the meetings depends on whether an inmate is considered at risk for violence. Some meetings occur with the parties separated by glass, he said, while in other cases meetings take place in rooms with cameras.
‘‘If we felt it was a risk to anyone staff or public we would address and take appropriate measures,’’ he said.
The president of the New Hampshire Bar Association’s board of governors said the group does not endorse specific set-ups for such interviews. He said he has been in many of the state’s jails to meet with clients and had not heard of similar assaults.
‘‘All I can say is we are all really thinking of him and his family,’’ he said of Davidow. ‘‘He’s a great guy and a terrific lawyer, and it’s a tragic shame that this happened. There are wonderfully talented lawyers helping indigent defendants all over this state, and they are terrific people.’’