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State v. Bates

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

November 14, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
FOSTER BATES

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL

          Roland Cole Chief Justice, Superior Court

         Defendant moves the Court to grant a new trial pursuant to 15 M.R.S. 2138(10)(C) based on DNA evidence found after trial.

         I. FACTS

         The facts of this case are set forth more fully in State v. Bates, 2003 ME 67, 822 A.2d 1129. In summary, the body of Tammy Dickson was found in her apartment in the Courtland Courts apartment complex in South Portland on February 20, 1994. Her hands and feet were bound behind her, a green sock was stuffed in her mouth, and she was naked from the waist down. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was strangulation and that she had been dead for several days. Ms. Dickson's 18-month-old son was found alive in his playpen.

         The police interviewed numerous people, including William Quinn and Defendant. Mr. Quinn was Ms. Dickson's on-again/off-again boyfriend. He had a key to Ms. Dickson's apartment and was the one who found her body after her neighbor asked him to check on her. Defendant and his then-wife were neighbors of Ms. Dickson. Defendant initially denied having any relationship with Ms. Dickson, except that she occasionally babysat for his child. The police obtained blood samples from Mr. Quinn and Defendant.

         Two years later, the DNA results became available. The results showed that Mr. Quinn's semen was found on a robe near Ms. Dickson's body. After further police questioning, Mr. Quinn admitted that he had been drinking heavily on the night of the murder and may have gone to Ms. Dickson's apartment and had sex with her. He also disclosed that there had been a green sock in Ms. Dickson's mouth, which was information that had not been released to the public.

         The vaginal swabs taken from Ms. Dickson were initially inconclusive. However, several years later, additional tests were performed with newer technology. The results of those tests matched the sperm cells on the vaginal swab to Defendant. On August 10, 2001, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant with intentional or knowing murder in violation of 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A) and gross sexual assault in violation of 17-A M.R.S. § 253(1)(A).

         At trial, Defendant testified that he had been having an affair with Ms. Dickson and had had sex with her the day before the murder, but he denied raping and murdering her. Defendant's former wife testified that Defendant left their apartment at approximately 10pm on the night of the murder and did not return until 3am the next morning. Defendant's co-worker testified that Defendant said he had been to Ms. Dickson's apartment on the night of the murder. In addition, one of her neighbors testified that, approximately one month before the murder, Ms. Dickson awoke in the middle of the night to discover Defendant sitting next to her and stroking her hair.

         On July 22, 2002, Defendant was convicted of both counts. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder and a concurrent thirty-year sentence for the sexual assault. On May 8, 2003, the Law Court affirmed the judgments of conviction and Defendant's sentences. Bates, 2003 ME 67, 822 A.2d 1129. On August 29, 2003, Defendant filed a petition for post conviction review, which this court denied on September 5, 2007.

         On January 10, 2005, Defendant filed a motion for preservation of DNA evidence, which the court granted on January 18, 2005. On September 4, 2007, Defendant filed a motion to release trial evidence for DNA testing pursuant to 15 M.R.S. §2137. The court granted Defendant's motion on April 29, 2008. The court ordered that a second vaginal smear slide, two hairs from Ms. Dickson's buttocks, one hair from her thigh, and three hairs from-the back of her shirt undergo nuclear DNA testing. The court also ordered that nine items of previously tested evidence-two hairs from Ms. Dickson's buttocks, one hair from a belt found near her body, the bindings on her hands and feet, the sock found in her mouth, two hairs from pubic combings, and rectal and oral swabs-undergo mitochondrial DNA testing.

         On March 2, 2010, the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Sciences issued a report on the results of the tests performed on the hairs from her thigh, buttocks, shirt, and pubic combings. The report showed that, except for one hair from her shirt, which was inconclusive, the hairs exhibited "the same physical and microscopic characteristics as the control head hair sample from the victim, " and therefore "could have originated" from Ms. Dickson. The report does not mention anyone other than Ms. Dickson as a potential source of these hairs.

         On April 8, 2010, the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory prepared a report on the result of the tests performed on the hairs from her buttocks and thigh, the hair from the belt, the anal and oral swabs, and the second vaginal smear. The report showed that one of the hairs from her thigh and the hairs from her shirt were not tested due to an insufficient amount of DNA. The bindings on her hands and feet and the green sock were not tested for reasons that are not specified in the report. In addition, the results from the second vaginal smear, the anal swab, and the oral swab were inconclusive. However, the hair from her buttocks, one of the hairs from her thigh, and the hair from the belt matched Ms. Dickson. The report does not mention anyone other than Ms. Dickson as a potential source of this evidence.

         A hearing on the results was scheduled for December 15, 2014. On December 12, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to continue the hearing. The motion, which was filed under seal, asserts that Defendant's counsel, Neil Raphael, "recently discovered new information regarding a potential alternate suspect, requiring further investigation, and further analysis of the DNA sample at issue, in order to fully present his Motion for New Trial to this Court."

         Attorney Raphael's affidavit in support of the motion states that, in October 2014, he learned that a woman named Melody Higgins had been trying to reach him. He called Ms. Higgins, who told him that, on the morning after Ms. Dickson's murder, Ms. Higgins received a phone call from her sister, Cindy Bridges. Ms. Bridges told Ms. Higgins that her then-boyfriend, Michael Bridges, had just come home drunk and screamed at her that "he killed a girl" and "there was a baby in the playpen." He also allegedly mentioned something about a sock in Ms. Dickson's throat. Attorney Raphael determined that Mr. Bridges was an uncle of one of Ms. Dickson's neighbors. Attorney Raphael further states that there was unknown DNA on the sock, and ...


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