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State v. Marquis

Supreme Court of Maine

May 25, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
JESSE P. MARQUIS

          Argued: April 13, 2017

          Jeremy Pratt, Esq. (orally), and Ellen Simmons, Esq., Camden, for appellant Jesse P. Marquis

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Lara M. Nomani, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          MEAD, J.

         [¶1] Jesse P. Marquis appeals from a judgment of conviction of murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1) (A) (2016), entered by the trial court (Aroostook County, Hunter, J.) following a jury trial. Marquis contends that the court erred by admitting in evidence text messages found in the victim's cell phone and three photographs of the crime scene in which the victim's body was visible, and by giving the jury an allegedly confusing and legally-flawed self-defense instruction. We disagree and affirm the judgment.[1]

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

         [¶2] "Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the trial record supports the following facts." State v. Weaver, 2016 ME 12, ¶ 2, 130 A.3d 972. On May 30, 2014, the victim had been in a relationship with Jesse Marquis for nearly two years; Marquis was living with her at her house. That evening, the victim went with her sister and two friends to a camp in St. Francis where Marquis was present with his young son to retrieve her car from Marquis and end the relationship. During a car ride with the two friends earlier that afternoon, the victim told them that Marquis "was being a baby, " and that she had "had enough of his childish acts, " as he sent her text messages from 6:24 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. saying that he loved her and pleading for her to come to the camp and spend time with him.

         [¶3] Arriving at the camp as it was getting dark, the victim and her sister got out of their vehicle and the victim talked to Marquis. Marquis was "fidgeting" and "was obviously drinking." The victim asked for her car keys and Marquis gave them to her; Marquis then asked for money and the victim gave him some. After Marquis retrieved clothing and beer from the car, the victim's sister told Marquis to "stay away from the house and stay away from my sister." The victim's friend saw Marquis run up to the car and "almost jump[]... on the side" as the victim prepared to leave. The victim, her sister, and her friends returned to the victim's house. Texts from Marquis found on the victim's phone sent at 8:50 p.m. and 8:51 p.m., forty-five minutes after the earlier texts, said "I never hit you or never was aggressive to you, " and "I want my gun." Although they had planned to return to their residence in Fort Kent, the victim's friends decided to spend the night with her; one slept on the couch, and the other in a recliner.

         [¶4] Marquis's ex-wife had dropped their son off with Marquis at 5:00 p.m. that day for his regular weekend visitation. Between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., Marquis sent her a text message telling her to come get the boy. When she responded that she was at work and would have to find a replacement to take the remainder of her shift, Marquis sent another message, twenty to thirty minutes after the first, telling her to "[c]ome get [the boy] now." Assuming that her son was at the victim's house, she went there, only to find that the victim and the victim's two friends were there, but Marquis and her son were not. Because she did not know where the camp was, the victim and her friends accompanied her back to the camp in a separate vehicle in order to retrieve her son.

         [¶5] At close to 9:00 p.m., Marquis's ex-wife knocked on the door of the camp and Marquis answered; their son was there as well. When she said that she was there to pick up the boy, Marquis "stumbl[ed] back in" to the camp trying to find the boy's belongings. Marquis was "intoxicated" and "upset"; when the boy and his mother left, Marquis was on the floor of the camp crying. Because she had been informed about the status of the victim's relationship with Marquis, Marquis's ex-wife returned to the victim's house to gather her son's things that were there. While she was on the way, Marquis texted her, saying, "I want to be with you and [the boy], I'm tired of being out in the cold"; she did not respond. She had a friendly conversation with the victim and never saw her again. Between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m., Marquis texted his ex-wife to say that he wanted his son back that night; she responded, "no."

         [¶6] At 9:32 p.m., Marquis resumed sending text messages to the victim, asking what he had done wrong; saying "I fed you, made your life easy, " and "you told me all week you loved me"; asking her to come get him; and saying, "I had plans for us." The last message, "Come get me, " was sent at 11:23 p.m.

         [¶7] At daybreak on May 31, the victim's friend who was sleeping in the recliner woke to see the victim moving around in the house; he then dozed back off. When he again awoke, he saw Marquis running into the living room with a knife in his hand. As he tried to get out of the chair, he told Marquis to leave and Marquis swung the knife at him. While he and the friend who had been sleeping on the couch called 9-1-1, he heard yelling and the victim screaming, and "something like a smash" coming from the bedroom; Marquis then emerged from the bedroom carrying a rifle. As Marquis left the house, he was fumbling with the rifle in an apparent attempt to reload it. When the friend went into the bedroom with its adjoining bathroom, he saw the victim lying on the floor with "blood everywhere."

         [¶8] The victim's friend who had been sleeping on the couch woke to "a big thud and a scream." She went into the bedroom and saw the victim on the floor, with Marquis "holding her but hitting her at the same time"; she also saw a gun. At about 5:45 a.m., as she made the call to 9-1-1, she saw Marquis holding the gun. Marquis followed her into the kitchen and pointed the gun at her, then left the house. She went to the victim and performed CPR on her until a paramedic arrived some twenty minutes later. The paramedic found the victim dead in a large pool of blood with her friend still attempting to resuscitate her.

         [¶9] The Deputy Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy. She determined that the victim died from a contact gunshot wound to the chest consistent with high-velocity hunting rifle ammunition, as well as stab wounds to the chest. The victim had suffered numerous stab and cut wounds, including a stab wound to the top of her head in which the medical examiner found embedded in her skull a piece of metal consistent with a knifepoint. The victim had cuts on her fingers that were typical of defensive wounds. During the autopsy, the medical examiner recovered a deformed bullet fragment from the victim's clothing that had fallen out of the exit wound.

         [¶10] On June 6, 2014, following an extensive manhunt, Marquis was arrested in the woods near St. Francis after being tracked by a bloodhound brought in from New Hampshire; he had cuts on his hand and a rifle was lying on the ground next to him. A forensic specialist with the Maine State Police testified that a spent 30-06 cartridge found on the floor in the victim's bedroom was fired from Marquis's rifle, and that the bullet fragment found during the autopsy had the same general rifling characteristics as test rounds fired from Marquis's rifle and therefore could have come from that weapon, although the specialist could not say definitively that it did. Other forensic evidence established that blood on a knife found in the victim's bedroom was hers; the knifepoint found during the autopsy came from that knife; blood found in an open rifle case that was partially under the victim's bed was Marquis's; and a boot print in the bedroom that was developed by using a chemical that reacts with blood was made by a boot Marquis was wearing when he was arrested.

         [¶11] On July 11, 2014, the Aroostook County Grand Jury indicted Marquis for intentional or knowing murder with the use of a firearm, 17-A M.R.S. §§ 201(1)(A), 1158-A(1)(B) (2016). Counsel was appointed and Marquis entered a plea of not guilty. Prior to trial, Marquis moved in limine to exclude, pursuant to M.R. Evid. 403, any photographs the State might seek to admit that would "inflame the passions of the jury." He also moved to exclude, pursuant to M.R. Evid. 401, evidence of the text messages that the State contended Marquis sent to the victim the night before she was killed on the ground that they were irrelevant. Concerning the text messages, the court ruled that they were relevant to prove Marquis's state of mind, and were therefore admissible subject to the State laying a proper foundation at trial.

         [¶12] A jury trial was held on June 14-17, 2016. During the trial the court admitted the text messages over Marquis's objection, and also admitted three crime scene photographs in which the victim's body could be seen, two over Marquis's objection and one without objection. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. At the sentencing hearing, the court entered judgment and imposed a life sentence. Marquis appealed the judgment of conviction and filed an application to allow an appeal of sentence. By order dated October 20, 2016, the Sentence Review Panel denied leave to appeal from the sentence.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Text Messages

         [¶13] Marquis first asserts that the court erred in admitting the text messages found in the victim's phone because they were irrelevant, and because there was an insufficient foundation ...


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