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State v. Hall

Supreme Court of Maine

October 31, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
WAYNE I. HALL

          Argued: October 11, 2017

          Amy McNally, Esq. (orally), Woodman Edmands Danylik Austin Smith & Jacques, P.A., Biddeford, for appellant Wayne I. Hall

          Kathryn L. Slattery, District Attorney, and Susan J. Pope, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District #1, Alfred, for appellee State of Maine

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

          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶1] Wayne I. Hall appeals from a judgment of conviction for two counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. §§ 209, 1252(4) (2016), entered by the trial court (York County, O'Neil, J.) following a two-day jury trial. On appeal, Hall argues that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing testimony about statements of an unavailable witness, thereby violating his constitutional right to confront witnesses.[1] Hall also argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts on the two counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. We affirm the judgment.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, the jury could rationally have found the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Morrison, 2016 ME 47, ¶ 2, 135 A.3d 343.

         [¶3] On December 26, 2015, the two men who were the complaining witnesses in this matter went to Beech Ridge Road in North Berwick for one of the men to remove his tree stand from his father-in-law's property. The men parked their pickup truck and trailer-which had their four wheelers on it- in the cul-de-sac between the father-in-law's driveway and a neighbor's driveway.

         [¶4] After retrieving the tree stand, the men rode their four wheelers on the property for a few hours. When they returned to the cul-de-sac, they saw a green van blocking access to the ramps for their trailer. One man gestured to the driver to make contact, at which point the driver opened the door and stated, "I'm going to fucking kill you." Hall was the driver of the van.

         [¶5] Hall stepped out of the van and appeared disheveled and intoxicated. He then got back in the van and began slowly driving out of the cul-de-sac stating to the men again, "I'm going to kill you, I'm going to fucking kill you." As Hall drove away, the men observed a handgun come out of the driver's side window, and shots were fired at them. The men were afraid for their lives and feared that they might be shot. They called 9-1-1, and, after meeting with a law enforcement officer, began looking for the van. They then saw Hall stumbling into a residence.

         [¶6] Shortly thereafter, officers of the North Berwick Police Department arrested Hall at that residence, which was his mother's home. They then searched for the green van and the firearm. The officers located the van parked behind a garage. The driver's side window was still rolled down, and the officers observed a gun holster and ammunition inside the van. The officers eventually located the firearm in another vehicle on the property.

         [¶7] On December 28, 2015, the State filed a four-count complaint charging Hall with two counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. §§ 209, 1252(4); and two counts of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. §§ 211, 1252(4) (2016). A York County grand jury returned an indictment reflecting the same four counts, and adding a fifth count for criminal OUI (Class D), 29-A M.R.S. §2411(1-A)(A), (5)(2016).

         [¶8] A two-day jury trial was held on November 28-29, 2016. Prior to trial, the State filed a motion in limine seeking the admission of statements made by Hall's former girlfriend, who was not available to testify at trial.[2] In an interview, the former girlfriend had told officers that Hall appeared to have his .357 Magnum revolver when he left the home, that she heard about five gun shots shortly after he left, and that Hall returned home without that gun.[3]The court denied the State's motion, concluding that the statements would be "extremely incriminatory" without Hall having the ability to cross-examine his former girlfriend. The court warned counsel that questioning law enforcement witnesses as to why they decided to act in a certain way in their investigation could open the door to the introduction of the excluded evidence.

         [¶9] At trial, during the State's direct examination, one of the investigating officers testified that the firearm recovered from the scene contained five spent shell casings and one loaded shell. He also testified that the bullets located in the green van were of the same type found in the firearm. During cross-examination-on an issue not raised on direct-Hall asked the officer about his "understanding" of the number of shots fired during the incident. The following exchange occurred:

Hall: The-the evidence in this case, as I understand it, is that there were three shots fired. Is that your understanding also?
Officer: My understanding is it was probably more than three shots fired.
Hall: Okay. And is that from-is that based upon the fact that you found four empty casings in the gun?
Officer: It was based upon people that we spoke with.
Hall: Okay. Well, the testimony of [one victim] was that there were three shots fired and I believe [the other victim] as well. Is that-did they say something different from that that you are aware of?
Officer: Not to me, no.
Hall: But you're under the impression that there were ...

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