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Roberts v. State

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

November 6, 2014

DANIEL P. ROBERTS
v.
STATE OF MAINE

Argued September 10, 2014.

Page 1032

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1033

On the briefs: Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, Esq., Boston, Massachusetts, and Verne E. Paradie, Jr., Esq., Paradie Sherman Walker & Worden, Lewiston, for appellant Daniel Roberts.

Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and William R. Stokes, Dep. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine.

At oral argument: Rosemary Curran Scapicchio, Esq., for appellant Daniel Roberts.

Donald Macomber, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, SILVER, MEAD, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1034

SILVER, J.

[¶1] Daniel P. Roberts appeals from an order of the Superior Court (Androscoggin County, Wheeler, J.) denying his petition for post-conviction review. Because we conclude that Roberts's Sixth Amendment right to a public trial was not violated during any stage of his 2007 murder trial, we affirm.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

[¶2] In December 2005, Roberts was indicted for the murder of Melissa Mendoza, the mother of his child.[1] Roberts pleaded not guilty, and the case proceeded to trial in February 2007. The jury returned a guilty verdict on February 27, 2007. In March 2007, Roberts filed a motion to dismiss the indictment and vacate the conviction based on alleged misconduct by grand jurors; the motion was denied. On June 29, 2007, Roberts was sentenced to fifty-five years in prison and was ordered to pay $4500 as restitution for Mendoza's funeral expenses. In August 2007, Roberts appealed.[2] We affirmed the conviction on July 8, 2008. See State v. Roberts, 2008 ME 112, 951 A.2d 803.

[¶3] Roberts filed a pro se petition for post-conviction review on July 2, 2009, alleging that he received ineffective assistance from trial counsel. He submitted an amended petition through counsel in December 2010, and he filed a supplemental amended petition in March 2011. An evidentiary hearing was held in the Superior Court in December 2011.

A. Jury Selection

[¶4] Prior to jury selection, Roberts's defense counsel filed a motion in limine

Page 1035

requesting that questioning of individual jurors take place outside of the presence of other jurors. He also asked that several non-attorney consultants, a second attorney, and up to two trial assistants be permitted to attend voir dire. Roberts also requested that he be permitted to personally address prospective jurors during the voir dire process.

[¶5] The court addressed the process for conducting voir dire during a motion hearing on January 30, 2007, at which Roberts was present and represented by counsel. The court explained that general voir dire would be conducted in open court and that jurors who had been exposed to information about the case or expressed a possible bias would then be questioned individually. Topics to be explored during individual voir dire included, among other things, jurors' views regarding drugs and alcohol, whether they had any personal experience with domestic violence, and whether they had previous experience in the court system as a party, witness, complaining witness, or victim.

[¶6] The court indicated, " [T]he question is whether [the individual voir dire is] done at sidebar or whether it's done in chambers," to which defense counsel responded, " I would prefer that it be done in chambers, Your Honor." Defense counsel further stated that Roberts was entitled to be present in chambers during the individual voir dire and said, " I would also ask for other people to be present as well." The court acknowledged that defense counsel had previously requested that " a number of people" be present during individual voir dire but expressed concern about having enough space in chambers to accommodate them. Further, the court explained, " I don't believe that all of that is necessary. What I will permit is one of your jury selection people to attend with you . . . and one co-counsel." Defense counsel said, " We don't object to obviously having them in chambers, and I don't object to limiting it to my co-counsel[,] one juror counselor and my client."

[¶7] Consequently, during jury selection, individual voir dire was conducted in chambers with no members of the public present; defense counsel was accompanied by co-counsel and one jury-selection consultant. The court advised each of the forty-nine prospective jurors questioned in chambers that everyone present had an obligation to keep confidential any information that was divulged during the individual voir dire. At no time did Roberts object to this procedure.

B. Courthouse Screening

[¶8] During the trial, a sign was posted at the front entrance of the courthouse indicating that anyone wearing colors, logos, or insignia associated with any fraternal organization would not be allowed inside. The purpose of this screening policy was to prevent the jury from being exposed to any suggestion that Roberts was affiliated with the Hell's Angels. Roberts did not object to this procedure; on the contrary, it was implemented with his knowledge and consent. The court informed counsel that it was implementing the process in order to prevent the colors or insignia from being displayed ...


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