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State v. Pratt

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

December 31, 2015


         Argued November 5, 2015

Page 382

          On the briefs: Jamesa J. Drake, Esq., Drake Law, LLC, Auburn, for appellant Anthony W. Pratt Jr.

         Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Donald W. Macomber, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine.

         At oral argument: Jamesa J. Drake, Esq., for appellant Anthony W. Pratt Jr.

         Donald W. Macomber, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee State of Maine.



Page 383

          MEAD, J.

          [¶1] Anthony W. Pratt Jr. appeals from a judgment of conviction for murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A) (2014), entered by the trial court (Cumberland County, Warren, J. ) following a jury trial. Pratt contends that the court erred in admitting in evidence an audio recording of his interview with a police detective, and in admitting evidence that Pratt had assaulted the victim hours before she was killed. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

          [¶2] The jury could have found the following facts, which we view in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict. See Reardon v. Larkin, 2010 ME 86, ¶ 4, 3 A.3d 376. At the end of the summer of 2012, the victim, Margarita Scott, was involved in a romantic relationship with Anthony Pratt Jr., who was also selling her drugs. Margarita shared an apartment in Westbrook with her husband, Cary Scott. Pratt lived in Portland with Christopher Jennings, Jennings's wife Tunile, and the couple's children. Margarita spent time at both locations. Eventually she agreed to marry Pratt and accepted an engagement ring from him. Pratt was unhappy, however, that Margarita continued to wear Cary's ring as well as his, and he was angry that she continued to spend time with Cary at the marital apartment.

          [¶3] Margarita spent the night of November 9, 2012, at the apartment she shared with Cary. At about 10:30 a.m. the next day, after Cary had gone to work, Pratt, who was upset that Margarita had not stayed with him the previous evening, took a cab to the Scotts' Westbrook apartment. A neighbor who lived in the apartment directly below the Scotts saw Pratt arrive in a taxi and pound on Margarita's door; the neighbor said that when Margarita opened the door Pratt " either pushed her or grabbed her by the hair and [they] ended up going down the [whole flight of] stairs." The neighbor said that " the whole time that the beating was occurring," he heard Pratt saying that " [h]e believe[d] that she was fucking her husband." Pratt and Margarita ended up in

Page 384

the driveway, where the neighbor saw " [Pratt] proceeding to kick her, punch her and complain to her that she was fucking her husband." When the beating continued, the neighbor called the police. Pratt and Margarita went back upstairs to the apartment. The neighbor never saw Margarita again.

          [¶4] Cary returned to the apartment for lunch because Pratt had called him several times that morning to see if he wanted to buy drugs, and Cary suspected that Pratt actually wanted to know his whereabouts. He arrived to find Margarita " disheveled" with a bruise under her right eye and marks on her face. Shortly thereafter a Westbrook police officer came to the door. Pratt was in the apartment, but Margarita had hidden him in a closet. The officer testified to Margarita's " upset . . . crying" demeanor and to observing similar injuries. When Cary returned to work he was still upset, so he left work and returned home unexpectedly. Pratt was there and said that he had come to help Margarita after she had been assaulted.

          [¶5] Cary drove Pratt and Margarita to a store in Portland, where he was to wait for Margarita to get some clothes at the Jennings's apartment and then return. When she did not come back after an hour or two, Cary left and went home. Tunile Jennings testified that Pratt and Margarita returned to the apartment between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., and that Pratt was wearing women's clothing and a wig, apparently as a disguise. Margarita told Tunile that Pratt had dragged her down some stairs, punched her in the face, and choked her. Tunile saw that Margarita's ear was swollen and her eye was very red; Margarita said that she was in a lot of pain, her ears were ringing, and that " her body was sore because he dragged her."

          [¶6] At 8:00 p.m. Margarita called Cary to say that she had taken their truck but would have it back by 2:00 a.m. for him to go to work. She never did return the truck, and Cary never saw or spoke to her again. That night, Margarita gave Christopher and Tunile a ride to the Old Port in her truck so that the couple could celebrate Christopher's birthday; Pratt stayed at the apartment to babysit the children. At 1:00 a.m. on November 11, Tunile used a borrowed phone to call the apartment; she had left her own phone at the apartment with Pratt. She spoke to Margarita to tell her that she did not have to pick them up as planned. Between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m., Tunile called her phone again and this time spoke to Pratt. When Tunile and Christopher returned home shortly after 3:00 a.m., Pratt was on the couch and Margarita was gone. Neither Christopher nor Tunile saw Margarita again.

          [¶7] At about 6:00 a.m. that same day, Pratt woke Christopher to say that he needed to go home to New York to care for his grandfather. He had not previously said anything about his grandfather having problems. Pratt boarded a bus that afternoon and did not return. Two months later, on January 17, 2013, a friend of Cary Scott found Cary's missing truck in a motel parking lot. Cary discovered Margarita's body in the back seat. The medical examiner testified that she died from a gunshot to the neck, and said that there was nothing inconsistent with a date of death of November 11, 2012. The State presented incriminating forensic evidence, including evidence from which the jury could conclude that Pratt once had possession of the gun that killed Margarita.

          [¶8] Detective Richard Vogel of the Portland Police Department interviewed Pratt twice, once in Portland and later at a New York Police Department stationhouse. In the second interview, Vogel told

Page 385

Pratt several times that he thought Pratt was lying, and that his story would not " fly." At the conclusion of the second interview, Pratt was arrested and charged with ...

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