Jonathan Broyhill, the man convicted of killing political strategist Jamie Hahn in 2013, hopes to persuade a three-judge panel at the state Court of Appeals to grant him a new trial.
On the birthday of Nation Hahn, the 31-year-old widower, an attorney for Broyhill argued that a prison psychiatrist should have been allowed to testify at his trial in March 2015. Gordon Widenhouse said Judge Paul Ridgeway, who presided over the trial, erred by prohibiting the psychiatrist who treated Broyhill 15 months after the attack from telling jurors the kinds of medicine he had prescribed for him while he was in jail.
Prosecutors argued in 2015 that the doctor would not have been able to offer testimony about Broyhill’s state of mind on April 22, 2013, when he engaged in a frenzied knife attack at the Hahns’ home. Jamie Hahn, 29, was fatally injured, while her husband suffered wounds that led to a verdict of attempted murder for Broyhill.
Broyhill, whose own defense attorney described him at trial as a chronic liar who feigned illnesses and stole thousands of dollars, did not dispute that he had caused the injuries that killed Jamie Hahn and left Nation Hahn with physical and emotional scars. Broyhill had been best man at the Hahns’ wedding.
His attorney, Joseph Arbour, argued that Broyhill had gone to the Hahns’ home that April day four years ago with a plan to turn an 8-inch butcher knife on himself. Broyhill had helped manage a campaign account for U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat from Wake County who was a client of Jamie Hahn’s political consulting firm, and questions had been growing about irregularities in the account.
Jamie Hahn and Broyhill were to go over the books that Monday afternoon in April when the violence occurred. They also were to work on a quarterly campaign finance report for the Federal Election Commission.
Both sides agreed at Broyhill’s trial that he had taken $46,500 from the account over a span of two years.
On Wednesday, Widenhouse said the jury might not have found Broyhill guilty of first-degree murder had it been allowed to hear from the psychiatrist the defense team wanted to testify. The testimony, Widenhouse argued, might have bolstered the defense team’s arguments that Broyhill had not gone to his friends’ home with a plan to kill or harm them.
“Mr. Broyhill defended this case on the basis that he did not have premeditation or deliberation or specific intent to kill,” Widenhouse said. “He did not claim at any point that he did not stab the two people in this case. Indeed, his statement given to the police and offered by the state in this case indicated that he was depressed and out of it at the time of the incident.”
The psychiatrist was going to testify about prescribing drugs to Broyhill after reading prison medical records that included information from shortly after his arrest.
“This is not a claim that the evidence isn’t sufficient to support the jury’s verdict in this case,” Widenhouse told the panel of appeals court judges – John Tyson, Rick Elmore and Phil Berger Jr. “It’s a claim that the trial court unconstitutionally prevented the defendant from offering favorable evidence that would have given the jury an additional basis, some clear basis, to find him guilty of only second-degree murder.”
Mary Carla Babb, an assistant N.C. attorney general, argued that Ridgeway did not err and that the jury had been given an opportunity to consider second-degree murder.
She reeled off a list of evidence that she said supported a first-degree verdict, including that Broyhill bought the knife nearly a week before the incident, that he had told a string of lies about illnesses he never had and about the missing money.
Broyhill was sentenced to life in prison.
“Here the evidence of premeditation and deliberation and specific intent to kill was more than sufficient,” Babb said. “It was overwhelming and compelling … to the point where the defendant was not prejudiced.”