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State v. Jeskey

Supreme Court of Maine

August 16, 2016


          Argued: May 4, 2016

         Reporter of Decisions

         On the briefs:

          Joseph M. Baldacci, Esq., Law Office of Joseph M. Baldacci, Bangor, and David Bate, Esq., Bangor, for appellant Roxanne Jeskey

          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:

          Joseph M. Baldacci, Esq., for appellant Roxanne Jeskey

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


          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Roxanne Jeskey appeals from a judgment of conviction for the intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder of her husband, Richard Jeskey, entered in the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Hunter, J.) after a bench trial. Roxanne argues that (A) there was insufficient evidence to support the courts finding beyond a reasonable doubt that she was guilty of knowing or intentional murder or depraved indifference murder; (B) the court erred by not finding her not guilty by reason of insanity; (C) the court erred by not considering the lesser included offense of manslaughter; and (D) the court abused its discretion by denying her motion for a new trial.[1] We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, the trial record supports the following facts, which were found by the Superior Court in a comprehensive decision following a seven-day bench trial. See State v. Weaver, 2016 ME 12, ¶ 2, 130 A.3d 972.

         [¶3] Roxanne and Richard "Rick" Jeskey were married and living together in an apartment in Bangor in June 2011. Rick was employed full time as a freight delivery truck driver, and Roxanne regularly provided care for her young grandchildren at their apartment. In 2003, Roxanne underwent a resection of the anterior right temporal lobe of her brain to mitigate intractable seizures. The surgery left Roxanne with some cognitive limitations, such as disorganized thinking and impaired processing, as well as personality, emotional, and behavioral changes, such as being quick to anger and experiencing stronger and more frequent impulsive reactions. Roxanne also suffers from heart disease and may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder associated with childhood abuse.

         [¶4] A husband and wife lived in the apartment next door to, and were friends with, the Jeskeys. They reported that the Jeskeys frequently argued and that Roxanne often described and displayed bruising on her arms, legs, and torso, but Roxanne provided no explanation for them other than that she was on blood thinners for her heart condition and had a history of bruising easily.

         [¶5] Both the Jeskeys and the couple next door were home in the late afternoon and evening on Sunday, June 12, 2011. Roxanne called the wife around 6:00 p.m., when the couple was having dinner, and the wife spoke with her briefly. The wife fell asleep watching television and was awoken about an hour later by loud banging or slamming sounds coming from the Jeskeys apartment. The wife called Roxanne to see if everything was all right. Roxanne told her that everything was fine and that they did not need any help. At ten or twenty minute intervals throughout the course of the evening until midnight, the couple heard loud banging, slamming sounds, bumps, and thuds coming from the Jeskeys apartment.

         [¶6] The wife and Roxanne exchanged several more phone calls that evening, and, at some point, Roxanne told the wife that she and Rick were fighting because she had discovered that he had been speaking with a former girlfriend on the phone, and she was mad.[2] The wife testified that she never heard any voices that night despite Roxannes assertion that she and Rick were fighting. Roxanne also told the wife that Rick slapped her across the face and asked what she "planned to do about it" when Roxanne confronted him about the former girlfriend. Roxanne explained that, in response, she used a pickaxe to damage Ricks motorcycle[3] that was parked near the apartment and had then gone back inside to hit him in the face with a plastic bat.

         [¶7] When the wife asked if Rick was okay, Roxanne told her that she had given him a bloody nose and had loosened a tooth but that he was fine, and if he really needed an ambulance, Roxanne said, she would let the wife know. During one call, in response to the wifes repeated offers of assistance, Roxanne specifically asked her not to call an ambulance. Roxanne stated that she was "pissed off and that she could "be your best friend or your worst fucking enemy, and thats what [Rick] picked." Roxanne told the wife that Rick was getting cleaned up and taking a bath. She ended the phone call by telling the wife that Rick was calling her from the bathroom, though the wife testified that she did not hear him.

         [¶8] Shortly after 11:30 p.m., the husband heard a very loud thud coming from the Jeskeys apartment, and he was so concerned that he went next door, in the pouring rain, to find out for himself if everything was all right. Roxanne came to the door but only opened it a crack to speak with him. She did not invite him in. He stayed at the door less than a minute, but he did not see anything out of the ordinary regarding Roxannes appearance, and she assured him that all was well. Roxanne called the couple once more and thanked the husband for coming over; that was the last contact they had with her until the following day. Both husband and wife stated that on each occasion they spoke with Roxanne, she appeared to be appropriately responsive, outwardly calm, and coherent.

         [¶9] Later that night, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on June 13, 2011, Roxanne called Ricks place of employment and spoke with the night supervisor. She told him that Rick was very ill and that the two of them were driving home from the hospital where they had just spent the entire evening, and therefore Rick would not be going to work that morning. Roxanne also asked for the supervisors name so that she could write it down, which the supervisor considered odd because he and Rick had worked together for years, and Roxanne claimed that Rick was sitting next to her in the car.

         [¶10] That morning, around 8:30 a.m., Roxanne called 9-1-1 and reported that Rick was unconscious and not breathing. Emergency services and law enforcement arrived within minutes, found Rick lying in the bathtub, and quickly determined that he was dead. An officer with the Bangor police department arrived on the scene, and, as he began to interact with Roxanne, he noted that she appeared weak and was breathing rapidly. She volunteered that she had gotten in a huge fight with her husband the night before and that she had hit him with her grandchilds plastic bat-part of which the officer subsequently found in the garbage can. She admitted to the officer that she lied to Ricks supervisor about having been at the hospital. She also told him that she found Rick in the tub when she went to take a shower that morning.

         [¶11] As she was speaking with the officer, she made repeated requests for medical personnel to "get a pulse" from Rick, and, when informed that he was deceased, she began to strike the officers chest repeatedly. He took hold of her arms and held them away from him. Following her outburst, Roxannes breathing became more labored, and she began to clutch her chest. As EMTs walked her to the door, she stated that Rick had pushed her down, and she displayed what to the officers observation seemed like aged bruises on her arms and legs. Roxanne was taken to the hospital for evaluation. She spent approximately four hours in the emergency department and, during that time, interacted with one particular nurse for about twenty minutes.

         [¶12] That nurse described Roxannes demeanor at the hospital as calm and matter-of-fact, and testified that Roxanne was consistently oriented to person, place, time, and situation. The nurse noted that Roxanne had no difficulties communicating and that Roxanne volunteered to the nurse that she had "hit [Rick] again and again and again, " that she had cut him, and that "he had made quite a mess and that she had to clean it up." At no time did Roxanne complain to the nurse of any specific injuries nor did she claim that Rick had hit her. The nurse observed bruises on Roxannes body and the back of her hands, consistent with the use of blood thinners.

         [¶13] When the wife went to the hospital to visit, Roxanne gave her a rambling explanation of what happened, reporting that Rick had been quite drunk, and that he had repeatedly fallen down and kept banging his face to the point that his eye came out. Roxanne also told the wife that Rick took the towel rack off the wall and attempted to strike her with it. She repeatedly told the wife that "she didnt do it, " and she only wanted to "hurt [him] a little bit."

         [¶14] Upon investigation of the Jeskeys apartment, law enforcement found Ricks unclothed body in the bathtub with a cellphone, broken in two, on his chest, a ripped shower curtain, a broken wooden towel rack and a brown leather belt lying on the bathroom floor; a pair of needle-nose pliers and a razor without the blade on the bathroom counter; and a broken piece of a metal broom handle, a cigarette lighter, and a bent metal towel rod also lying on the floor. In addition, there were impact, cast-off, and transfer blood patterns[4] in the shower; on the bathroom door, floor, walls and counter; on the hallway carpet; and on the toolbox in the bedroom closet. The washing machine and a laundry basket were full of wet laundry with red-brown stains on several of the articles. The bathroom appeared as though it had been cleaned up.

         [¶15] The medical examiner testified that Rick sustained multiple injuries to the front, both sides, and back of his head; a deep laceration across the bridge of his nose and a broken nose; a subarachnoid hemorrhage near the surface of his brain; multiple cuts and tear wounds to his forehead and scalp; injuries all around his eyes and a cutting injury to his left eyelid, the globe of his left eye sliced open in a manner that allowed the vitreous fluid to escape; puncture wounds to his arms[5]; significant bruising around his entire neck; a fractured hyoid bone; pinpoint hemorrhages inside his lips suggesting that he was strangled or choked; multiple torso injuries on his front and left side, including three rib fractures; a burn to his left nipple; punctures, bruises, and cuts to the exterior of his penis; injuries to his scrotum that were caused when something[6] was thrust through the scrotal sac far enough to reach the pelvic floor and grab onto and damage the mesentery and tear a hole in the small bowel; cuts and lineal abrasions to the anus; and bruising, cuts, tears, and abrasions to the forearms, hands, thighs, and calves. Rick also had alcohol and sleeping pills in his system, which may have impaired or incapacitated him, but the court specifically found that he was "conscious throughout his ordeal."

         [¶16] On June 22, 2011, Roxanne was charged with intentional or knowing murder or, in the alternative, depraved indifference murder in violation of 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A)-(B) (2015). On June 24, 2011, the State filed a motion for a forensic evaluation, stating, "The circumstances of the case strongly suggest that the defendant may have mental illness issues, including neuropsychological issues." On July 27, 2011, the grand jury returned an indictment charging Roxanne with one consolidated count of intentional or knowing and/or depraved indifference murder.

         [¶17] Roxanne pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in September 2011 and, after holding a hearing on October 31, 2011, the court (A. Murray, J.) granted the States motion for a forensic evaluation, ordering a mental examination to determine Roxannes competency, whether she suffered from insanity or an abnormal condition of the mind, and whether there existed other mental conditions relevant to issues that might arise at trial, such as battered woman syndrome. In May 2012, at the States request, the court also ordered a neuropsychological ...

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