Hearing in Orange murder case postponed

  • Joshua Hart, who has been charged for the murder of 95-year-old Thomas A. Harty, is led into Franklin County Superior Court in Greenfield for arraignment January 5, 2017. On right is co-defendant Brittany Smith. recorder file photos

  • Brittany Smith, who has been charged for the murder of 95-year-old Thomas A. Harty, leaving his injured wife, Joanna Fisher, for dead and the theft of their car and money after invading their home on October 5, 2016, is led into Franklin County Superior Court in Greenfield for arraignment Thursday, January 5, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 08, 2018

ORANGE — Final arguments in the hearing for a motion to suppress information in connection to the alleged murders of Thomas Harty and Joanna Fisher has been postponed a second time until March, according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

Joshua Hart, 25, and Brittany Smith, 29, both of Athol, stand accused of killing 95-year-old Harty during an Oct. 5, 2016, home invasion at 581 East River St. and inflicting fatal injuries to his wife, Fisher, 77, before leaving her for dead. Fisher died a month later due to complications from those injuries.

A continuation for the hearing, which began in December 2017, was postponed just before the new year. Judge John Agostini was scheduled to hear final arguments today in Berkshire Superior Court in Pittsfield. It has been rescheduled until March 2 in the same location.

Defense attorneys for Smith and Hart, Mary Anne Stamm and Brian E. Murphy respectively, brought the motion forward, having called into question methods used by law enforcement officials to obtain confessions from the defendants, who during the home invasion allegedly also ransacked the house in search of cash, taking the victims’ credit and debit cards and the keys to a Toyota Matrix before fleeing to Virginia. It was there that the two suspects in the attack were apprehended by the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Department.

During the hearing’s first day, Stamm and Murphy grilled Lt. Steven Funkhouser of the Rockbridge County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Office and Stephen Bushay of the Massachusetts State Police.

The lawyers pressed both officers on their interview tactics, playing back at times gruesome details said by the defendants and captured on tape.

Chief Trial Counsel Jeremy Bucci of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.

Smith and Hart face combined charges of murder, home invasion, armed robbery, conspiracy, larceny over $250, larceny of a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, unauthorized use of a credit card. The two also face charges in connection with earlier incidents, including breaking and entering and larceny over $250, according to the district attorney’s office.

“If convicted of murder in the first degree, the defendants face a mandatory sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” the statement said.

Both Hart and Smith are expected to be tried separately in April at Franklin Superior Court.