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State v. Poulin

Supreme Court of Maine

July 14, 2016


          Argued: June 9, 2016

         On the briefs:

          Amy L. Fairfield, Esq., Fairfield & Associates, P.A., Lyman, for appellant Derek S. Poulin

          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:

          Valerie A. Randall, Esq., Fairfield & Associates, P.A., Portland, for appellant Derek Poulin

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


          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶1] Derek S. Poulin appeals from a judgment of conviction for murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A), (B) (2015), and arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 802(1)(A) (2015), entered by the Unified Criminal Docket (York County, O'Neil, J.) after a jury trial.

         [¶2] The issues in this case arise from the trial court's exclusion of certain evidence-GPS data and handwritten notes-from the State's case-in-chief because of discovery violations or hearsay problems. However, the court indicated that the excluded evidence would or might be available for use as impeachment evidence should the defense offer evidence contrary to the facts indicated by the excluded evidence. On appeal, Poulin argues that his constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial was violated because these evidentiary rulings effectively prevented him from presenting evidence contrary to the facts indicated in the excluded evidence. Because the rulings excluding evidence from use in the State's case-in-chief reflected no abuse of the trial court's discretion and did not deprive Poulin of a fair trial, we affirm.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶3] Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, the following facts are supported by the trial record. See State v. Reed, 2013 ME 5, ¶ 9, 58 A.3d 1130. In the afternoon of October 23, 2012, the body of the victim, Poulin's paternal grandmother, was discovered in her home in Old Orchard Beach. She had been struck in the head with blunt objects and stabbed many times in the head, neck, and torso, suffering a total of seventy-two blunt-force and sharp-force injuries. The victim's home had been set on fire.

         [¶4] Before her death, the victim had shared her home with Poulin and Poulin's father. Poulin's father and grandmother both worked, but Poulin was unemployed. Around October 18, 2012, the victim had a conversation with a relative about how she needed to show Poulin some "tough love" and tell him to move out. The victim stated that she had tried to do that, but that she would have to try again.

         [¶5] Just after 7:00 a.m. on October 23, 2012, Poulin's father arrived at work in Portland. Around 11:30 a.m., the victim spoke to a relative on the phone and told him that she was getting ready for work. She asked the relative to call her that afternoon after he finished an appointment. The relative called the victim's phone repeatedly after about 1:00 p.m., but she did not answer.

         [¶6] At approximately 1:40 p.m., a woman who lived directly across the street from the victim's house noticed that the smoke detector was sounding in the victim's home. When, about thirty minutes later, the neighbor observed that the alarm was still sounding, she approached the house, saw that the window blinds were melting, saw smoke in the house, and called 9-1-1.

         [¶7] Firefighters arrived, extinguished the fires in the house, and discovered the victim's body on the floor of the downstairs bedroom. When Poulin's father returned home from work around 4:20 p.m., investigators from the Fire Marshal's Office stopped him from entering the home. Poulin's father was "visibly shaken" upon learning that his mother had died. While Poulin's father was with one of the investigators, around 4:23 p.m., he received a call from Poulin. Poulin's father told Poulin about the fire. The investigator observed that Poulin's father became angry during the call.

         [¶8] At 5:33 p.m., an hour and ten minutes after the phone call, Poulin arrived at the house. He and his father agreed to be interviewed at the police station, and the two of them drove there together in Poulin's car. At the police station, they were interviewed separately. Poulin stated that he had left his grandmother's house by 11:30 that morning and had gone to the Portland office of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to renew his driver's license, then to his mother's apartment in Portland, where no one was home, and then to his dentist's office around 1:00 p.m. to make an appointment to have dental work done. He told the police that he then returned to his mother's apartment, where he stayed until he called his father to get dental insurance information. Poulin told the police that his mother and siblings were home when he arrived at his mother's home the second time. He told the police that he "rushed" to his grandmother's house after the phone call. When asked why it took him so long to get to the house, he stated, "Five o'clock traffic, man." Poulin returned to his mother's apartment after the interview.

         [¶9] In the evening of October 23, after a deputy medical examiner noted that the victim had cuts and lacerations on her neck and shoulders and saw indications that she had died before the fire was set, law enforcement officers went to Poulin's mother's house. They asked Poulin for the clothing he had been wearing that day, and he gave them a white t-shirt, a pair of white pants, and a pair of boots. Poulin stated that those were the clothes ...

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