, Salem, MA

November 28, 2013

After mistrial, lawyer seeks dismissal


---- — PEABODY — The lawyer for a serial drunken driver facing his fifth such charge yesterday asked a judge to dismiss the case against his client, pointing to a “pattern of conduct” by Peabody police, culminating in improper statements to a jury earlier this month.

But suspect Peter Hurley’s behavior in the courtroom during that hearing in Salem Superior Court forced a judge to delay the proceedings until next week. Hurley repeatedly interrupted his own lawyer, then held up a photograph of himself taken after his arrest, during which, Hurley claims, he was beaten by police.

Hurley, 52, of Peabody, was standing trial in Salem Superior Court two weeks ago on fifth-offense drunken driving, threats, resisting arrest and driving after license suspension charges when Peabody police Lt. Arthur Yeo, on the witness stand, told jurors that police already had Hurley’s personal information in the computer from prior bookings.

That violated not only a pretrial order by Judge David Lowy that no reference be made to Hurley’s prior record but a long-standing legal practice. Courts have held that such information tends to bias jurors against a defendant.

Lowy declared a mistrial.

Yesterday, Hurley’s lawyer, Kirk Bransfield, argued that the statements by Yeo were the culmination of a series of decisions by Peabody police, who held a level of animosity toward his client, who has a long record, he said.

Bransfield noted that the injuries to Hurley, shown in a photo taken after his arrest, appear more serious than what was described in the police report, which focuses more on Hurley’s conduct after his arrest than on the alleged drunken driving.

The testimony of the officers at trial continued that pattern, he said.

“Their intent was to put as much information about Mr. Hurley’s bad character in front of the jury as possible,” said Bransfield, who suggested that one officer’s voice was dripping in contempt.

Bransfield had already given the judge a stack of motions, affidavits and a copy of the photo when Hurley grew agitated and began asking the lawyer to show the photo to the judge.

Despite a warning from the judge to let his attorney do the talking, Hurley again interrupted, this time holding up the photo.

That prompted another warning from the judge, during which Hurley kept talking. He was sent downstairs.

The hearing will resume on Tuesday afternoon.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.