Judge Declares Mistrial in Ex-Senator’s Domestic Violence Trial; Listen To Trial Audio Here

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Paula Tracy file photo

Former state Senator Jeffrey Woodburn, right, is pictured last August for a hearing with his attorney Mark Sisti of Chichester in Coos Superior Court in Lancaster.

You can listen to Wednesday’s trial of State v. Jeffrey Woodburn in Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster here: https://youtu.be/H_FC_H2Yp9g?si=YAMo7Ol12wkcm5Mt

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

LANCASTER – Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein declared a mistrial in the domestic violence case against former state senator Jeffrey Woodburn Thursday after the jury deliberated for about four hours over two days.

Jurors twice told Bornstein they were deadlocked and couldn’t reach a verdict after the less than two-hour trial in Coos County Superior Court in Lancaster. On Thursday, Bornstein declared a mistrial.

This was Woodburn’s second trial on the same domestic violence and simple assault charges against his then-fiancee Emily Jacobs, 41, on Dec. 15, 2017, in Jefferson.

Woodburn, 58, was found guilty of those charges on May 13, 2021, but the state Supreme Court overturned them paving the way for Wednesday’s trial. The court remanded them to Judge Bornstein because he hadn’t allowed Woodburn to argue self-defense.

“We’re quite happy with the results,” said Woodburn’s attorney Mark Sisti of Chichester after the verdict.

Sisti said if there is a third trial, there is a low probability the state would prevail.

“With self-defense, the state’s probability of gaining a conviction is minimized,” Sisti said.

The Attorney General’s Office hasn’t decided whether to re-try Woodburn on those two charges for a third time, according to spokesman Mike Garrity.

On Wednesday at trial, Assistant Attorney General Joshua Speicher recounted the night of Dec. 15, 2017, when Woodburn and his ex-fiancee got into an argument on the way to her home in Jefferson after attending a Christmas Party in Lancaster.

 “During a simple disagreement with his then fiancé Emily Jacobs on the evening of Dec. 15, 2017, the defendant Jeffrey Woodburn got angry,” Speicher told the jury. “And when the defendant who had been drinking that night got angry, he lashed out. Instead of resolving the disagreement with his words, instead of walking away, the defendant opted for violence instead and sank his teeth into Emily’s left hand, bit down and did not let go. He bit down so hard that it left Emily bruised and in pain for days afterwards. The defendant, a grown man bit Emily because he had to have things his way and only his way,” Speicher told the jury.

“Let’s talk about what led up to a 6 foot 2, 220-pound defendant biting the hand of his much smaller fiancée,” Speicher said.

Sisti told the jury that the state admitted that Jacobs had initiated the incident “that resulted in that scramble for the phone,” that Jacobs didn’t want Woodburn to make a call so he could get a ride to his Whitefield home from a friend and so she grabbed for his phone when they were yards from her home.

“Self-defense is an absolute defense,” Sisti said. “A man or woman cannot have unprivileged contact with another individual, period. If they do, the person that has been contacted has the absolute right, absolute right to defend himself or herself, absolutely,” Sisti said.

Sisti asked Jacobs if there wouldn’t have been a bite if she hadn’t reached for Woodburn’s phone.

“I didn’t know he was going to bite me,” Jacobs said.

She said she was reaching for his phone but said there was no scuffle.

“He got out of the car after he bit me,” Jacobs said.

Sisti asked her if she had reported the incident to police or a medical professional and she said no. He showed her the photo of her hand taken four days later.

Sisti: “This is the hand you say he bit you so hard it caused excruciating pain?”

Jacobs: “Excruciating.”

Sisti: “And pain and all kinds of restricted movement for days?”

Jacobs: “Yes.”

Sisti: “This terrible bite left no bite mark, did it?”

Jacobs: “It wasn’t there, that was four days later.”

Sisti: “The bite didn’t even break the skin.”

Jacobs: “There was a little scar that was there.”

Sisti: “It didn’t even break the skin.”

Jacobs: “The bite marks were there.”

Previous trial

On May 13, 2021, Woodburn was found guilty of two counts of criminal mischief, one count of domestic violence and one simple assault, involving the incidents Woodburn had admitted to on the witness stand – breaking the dryer door and a door at Jacobs’ Jefferson residence and biting her on Dec. 15, 2017.

Woodburn was found not guilty on the five other charges that stemmed from a different incident involving biting Jacobs, throwing a cup of water at her face, punching her in the stomach and trespassing.
“In short, that means they believed me,” Woodburn said after the first trial.

After that trial Jacobs, a clinician, released a statement to news outlets.

“Today, justice was served, and as a survivor of domestic violence, I was believed.  I am grateful to the jury for convicting the defendant of domestic violence, holding him accountable for his acts of violence against me.”

Last year, Woodburn appealed the two criminal mischief convictions. That appeal is pending before the state Supreme Court. 

When they were together, Woodburn was a state senator and Jacobs was the chairman of the Coos County Democratic Committee, candidate for county treasurer and was a delegate for Bernie Sanders.

Jacobs and Woodburn shared a passion for politics. Woodburn said he now works as a bartender and Jacobs testified she moved to Maine.

In Wednesday’s trial, Jacobs testified they argued on the way to her house because she wanted to know why he didn’t take his car, why he wanted to drink and why she had to drive and get up early the next day to drive him home to Whitefield.

Yards from her Jefferson home, Woodburn insisted she pull over so he could leave the car and call a friend to get a ride to Whitefield.

Jacobs said she didn’t want him to make the call because she wasn’t allowed to call that same friend.

“He didn’t like the fact I had questioned him,” Jacobs said. …“He was yelling.”


Although Woodburn was arrested Aug. 2, 2018, there were a number of detours that slowed the case. Prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to have Donna Brown removed as Woodburn’s then-attorney and investigated her and Woodburn for allegedly leaking a photo that was under seal, but no charges came of it.

The trial was also delayed more than a year because of the pandemic. Woodburn’s was the first jury trial in Coos County Superior Court after the pandemic.

Editor’s note: Judge Bornstein declined InDepthNH.org’s motion to watch the trial online because of travel distance to Lancaster. The courts have access by WebEx, but only allow it if one of the parties to the case requests it. Sisti and the Attorney General’s Office didn’t oppose the motion. InDepthNH.org reported on the trial by buying an official audio copy for $35 from e-Scribers, which is linked in the beginning of the story.  

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