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State v. McNaughton

Superior Court of Maine, Androscoggin

June 9, 2016

STATE OF MAINE,
v.
MICHAEL M. McNAUGHTON, Defendant

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS FOR NEW TRIAL

          MaryGay Kennedy, Justice

         This matter is before the court on Defendant Michael McNaughton's motions for new trial. The Defendant asserts three grounds for a new trial: newly discovered evidence received from the State following the jury verdict, failure of the State to turn over text messages prior to trial, and a denial of due process by the introduction of "perjured testimony" by State witnesses and inconsistent theories of prosecution.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 12, 2013 a complaint was filed against Michael McNaughton for intentionally or knowingly causing the death of Romeo Parent on April 9, 2013. On May 8, 2013, Michael McNaughton was indicted on one count of intentional or knowing murder or depraved indifference murder in violation of 17-A M.R.S. §201 (1)(A) & (B), one count of conspiracy to commit intentional murder, in violation of 17-A M.R.S. §151(1)(A), and one count hindering apprehension or prosecution, in violation of 17-A M.R.S. §753(1-B)(C)(1).[1] On July 28, 2014, following 11 days of trial and two days of jury deliberations, Michael McNaughton was found guilty of all charges.

         The court acknowledges and regrets that it has taken significantly longer to rule on Defendant's motions for new trial than is normally preferred or expected. There are myriad reasons for the delay, not the least of which is the courts and counsels' schedules. The overriding cause for the delay, however, was counsels' express preference to await the outcome of the trial and subsequent motions in the case against William True. The True trial began on December 3, 2014 and lasted 11 days. On December 17, 2014, the jury found William True guilty of one count of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder and one count of hindering apprehension or prosecution.[2] Defendant William True filed motions for new trial, asserting many of the same, albeit some unique concerns as the Defendant filed in this case. (See: Fn.3). After numerous conferences, hearings and months of accusations among counsel, William True accepted the State's sentencing recommendation and was sentenced by the court on December 3, 2015.

         Michael McNaughton's first motion for new trial was filed on August 20, 2014. He claimed that he was deprived of a fair trial based on newly discovered evidence. While acknowledging that he had seen some of the evidence during the trial, he asserted that there were two pieces of significant evidence that he received on August 19, 2014 - 22 days after the jury verdict. That evidence consisted of a CD recording of an interview of William True on April 5, 2013, just four days before the murder of Romeo Parent, which related to the criminal charges for which Mr. Parent had implicated Mr. True.[3] There was also a report and CD regarding a phone call placed by Jessica Gaudette to Felicia Cadman, in which Cadman "apparently admits that she had basically been lying about William True being in the woods on the night of the murder."

         On October 21, 2014, Defendant filed an amended or second motion for new trial and motion for sanctions. In addition to the claims initially asserted, Defendant added a claim relating to more newly discovered evidence - a video recording of an interview with Felicia Cadman and accompanying written report, from her arrest on July 10, 2014. Defendant received this evidence on October 20, 2014, almost three months after the trial concluded. Defendant also claimed a due process violation based on the State's failure to turn over text messages allegedly sent between the detectives and witnesses in the case. A testimonial hearing on Defendant's motions for new trial was scheduled for February 24, 2015.[4] During the hearing, Defendant advised that he intended to further amend his motion for new trial by including a claim that the State presented "perjured testimony" at his trial. At the end of the hearing day, the matter was scheduled for further testimony on April 1, 2015.

         On March 10, 2015, Defendant filed his second amended or third motion for new trial. In addition to the allegations raised in his prior motions, Defendant claimed that his due process rights were violated by the State's presentation of inconsistent theories of the murder in Defendant's trial and that of William True.

         In considering Defendant's motions for new trial, the court has reviewed the file in this matter, including but not limited to: Defendant's motions and argument, the State's opposition briefs, hearing transcripts and the court's notes from hearings held on February 24, 2015 and April 1, 2015. The court has also reviewed the exhibits Defendant asserts he did not receive until August 19, 2014: A CD recording of an interview with William True on April 5, 2013 and a written report and transcript of a pre-text call placed by Jessica Gaudette to Felicia Cadman on July 2, 2014; and exhibits not received until October 20, 2014: A report regarding Detective Wayne Clifford's interview with Felicia Cadman on the day of her arrest, July 10, 2014 (the CD of this interview was played at the hearing on February 24, 2015.) In addition, the court has reviewed other exhibits, including but not limited to: The Incident Report regarding the burglary on April 4, 2013 that Romeo Parent and William True were alleged to have committed. The transcript of an interview of Felicia Cadman on May 17, 2013 by Detectives Michael Chavez and Randall Keaten; and, transcripts of interviews of Felicia Cadman and Jessica Gaudette on June 30, 2014 by Detectives Randall Keaten and Roland Godbout.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Underlying the Defendant's motions for new trial is the assertion that the State has failed to provide discovery in accordance with Rule 16 of the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure (M.R.Crim.P).[5]In addition to seeking a new trial, Defendant asks the court to sanction the State for failing to provide discovery, presenting perjured testimony and proceeding on inconsistent theories in Defendant's case and that of William True's.

         In addition to promoting the requirement of constitutional due process, Rule 16 of the M.R.Crim.P. functions to enhance a defendant's opportunity to prepare for trial, and to diminish the element of unfair surprise. By equalizing, as between the State and the accused, access to materials that the defendant could not easily obtain elsewhere, the outcome of a criminal prosecution hinges on the merits of the case rather than on the demerits of lawyer performance on one side or the other. See State v. Ledger, 444 A.2d 404, -410 (Me. 1982) citing: State v. Eldridge, 412 A.2d 62, 67 (Me. 1980); Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); State v. Morton, 397 A.2d 171, 176 (Me. 1979); and, State v. Thurlow, 414 A.2d 1241, 1244 (Me. 1980).

         The duty on the State to disclose information is a continuing one. M.R. Crim. P. 16(a)(2). However, the duty of the State to provide discovery is not an absolute one. The State's duty is one of reasonable diligence, of making reasonable inquiry to uncover material relevant to the case against the defendant. See State v. Dowling, 435 A.2d 496, 499-500 (Me. 1982); See also State v. Simmons, 435 A.2d 1090, 1093 (Me. 1981). The State is not required to perform investigatory work for the defendant, nor to locate and make available to the defendant all material about the defendant regardless of its relevancy to the case or likelihood of its use at a trial or pretrial proceeding. See State v. Morton, 397 A.2d 171, 176 (Me. 1979).

         Rule 33 M.R.Crim.P. governs motions for a new trial. On motion of the defendant, a court may grant a new trial to the defendant if required in the interest of justice. M.R.Crim.P. 33. "A motion for a new trial based on any ground other than newly discovered evidence shall be made within 10 days after verdict or finding of guilty or within such time as the court may fix during the 10-day period." M.R.Crim.P. 33.

         "Motions for a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence are looked upon with 'disfavor/ in light of the need for finality and for the preservation of the integrity of criminal judgments." State v. Twardus, 2013 ME 74, ¶29, 72 A.3d 523. "Any motion for a new trial based on the ground of newly discovered evidence may be made only before, or within 2 years after, entry of the judgment in the criminal docket." M.R.Crim.P. 33. Under Rule 33, "a defendant seeking a new trial based on newly discovered evidence must establish by clear and convincing evidence that:

(1) The evidence is such as will probably change the result if a new trial is granted;
(2) It has been discovered since the trial;
(3) It could not have been discovered before the trial by the exercise of due diligence;
(4) It is material to the issue; and
(5) It is not merely cumulative or impeaching, unless it is clear that such impeachment would have resulted in a different verdict.

         The defendant's burden "is a heavy one:

It is not enough for the defendant to show that there is a possibility or a chance of different verdict. [I]t must be made to appear that, in the light of the overall testimony, new and old, another jury ought to give a different verdict; there must be a probability that a new trial would result in a different verdict."

Twardus, 2013 ME 74, ¶30, 72 A.3d 523 (emphasis in the original) (citations omitted). Where the newly discovered evidence is merely impeaching, the standard is higher by requiring a showing of a "nearly certain change in result." Id. The trial court determines the weight and credibility of the newly discovered evidence. Id. (citations omitted).

         When the defendant alleges a violation under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), "[a] somewhat less stringent standard applies" than the standard applied by M.R.Crim.P. 33. The defendant nevertheless retains the burden of proof and the trial court determines the weight and credibility of the newly discovered evidence. Twardus, 2013 ME 74, ¶31, 72 A.3d 523 (citations omitted).

         The Supreme Court has identified three elements of a Brady violation: "The evidence at issue must be favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory, or because it is impeaching; the evidence must have been suppressed by the State, either willfully or inadvertently; and prejudice must have ensued." Twardus, 2013 ME 74, ¶31, 72 A.3d 523 (citing Strickler v. Green, 527 U.S. 263, 281-282 (1999)).

         The element of prejudice is satisfied if the undisclosed evidence is material. Twardus, 2013 ME 74, ¶32, 72 A.3d 523. Material means, "The nondisclosure was so serious that there is a reasonable probability that the suppressed evidence would have produced a different verdict. Id. (citing Strickler, 527 U.S. at 281-82 and State v. Silva, 2012 ME 120, ¶IO, 56 A.3d 1230). A "reasonable probability" of a different result exists where "the government's evidentiary suppression undermines the confidence in the outcome of the trial." Id. ¶31 (citations omitted). Another way to describe materiality is: "[t]he question is not whether the defendant would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the evidence, but whether in its absence he received a fair trial, understood as a trial resulting in a verdict worthy of confidence." Id. ¶33 (citations omitted). The materiality of undisclosed evidence is considered collectively. Twardus, 2013 ME 74, ¶31, 72 A.3d 523.

         In determining whether to apply M.R.Crim.P. 33 or the Brady standard, the court looks at whether the State suppressed the evidence and whether the evidence existed at the time of trial. See Twardus,2013 ME 74, ¶¶34, 41, 46-48, 72 A.3d 523. If the State did not suppress evidence, then the court applies the standard under M.R.Crim.P. 33. Twardus,2013 ME 74, ¶¶41, 48, 72 A.3d 523. If the State suppresses evidence that existed at the time of trial, then the court applies the standard under Brady. See Twardus, 2013 ME 74, ¶34, 72 A.3d 523 (emphasis in the original) (citations omitted). If the State suppresses evidence that did not exist at the time of trial, then "a defendant is left with an argument that the prosecutor's non-disclosure amounted to conduct contrary to fundamental notions of fair ...


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