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State v. Williams

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

June 15, 2018



          State's Attorney: MAEGHAN MALONEY



         Before the court is the Defendant's Motion for Discovery Sanctions filed pursuant to M.R.U.Crim.P. 16(e) on February6, 2018. An evidentiary hearing was held on June 13, 2018 at which Officer Christopher Frye of the Augusta Police Department and Maine State Trooper Lee Vanadestine testified. By agreement, State's exhibits 1-8 were admitted in evidence.


         The facts are not in dispute.

         On Saturday, May 28, 2016 Trooper Vanadestine arrested the Defendant in Augusta for operating under the influence and transported him to the Augusta Police Department to conduct a breath test using the intoxilyzer in booking room 2 (also referred to as the "intoxilyzer room"). That room is equipped with an audio and video recording camera and Trooper Vanadestine knew that. Nevertheless, the trooper did not think to request a copy of his intoxilyzer examination of the Defendant or any conversations he had with the Defendant while in the intoxilyzer room. The trooper testified that he gave no thought to whether the recording would be automatically "over-written" after a period of time (apparently 60 days at the Augusta Police Department) because it had not been his practice to obtain such video evidence. In short, obtaining such recordings as part of discovery had not been an "issue" for him during his law enforcement career. Trooper Vanadestine testified that he did not deliberately allow the video to be "over-written" nor did he make a conscious decision not to request a copy of it. Rather, it was simply an oversight on his part.

         During cross examination, the trooper testified that at the end of the intoxilyzer test he had a conversation with the Defendant during which the Defendant made statements that were, presumably, captured on the video recording. The Defendant may also have made statements to the trooper at the roadside stop, but Trooper Vanadestine did not have a clear memory at the hearing of what was said by the Defendant at roadside.

         Officer Frye testified that he has served as the records/court officer for the Augusta Police Department for the past seven years. The Augusta Police Department is equipped with a total of five cameras that record 24 hours a day/ 7days a week. All recordings are written to a server and are automatically over-written after 60 days. Several law enforcement agencies utilize the intoxilyzer facilities at the Augusta Police Department such as Hallowell, Maine State Police and the Kennebec County Sheriff's Department, among others. In May 2016 Officer Frye had no way of necessarily knowing which outside agency or officer had used the Augusta intoxilyzer machine. Since that time, however, a log book system has been implemented so that he can keep track of such "outside" use. Moreover a message has been posted in the intoxilyzer room alerting and instructing outside officers as to how to request a copy of any recording inside the intoxilyzer room. Officer Frye testified that he generally fulfills requests for such copies within an hour after receiving them. He also maintains a record of any email requests and his responses.

         On July 1, 2016, the District Attorney's Office received Trooper Vanadestine's "Discovery Checklist" that indicated that audio and video recordings did not exist in this case. The Defendant was arraigned on July 18, 2016 and was handed a packet of discovery with a cover letter that indicated that no recordings existed. Additional discovery was provided to defense counsel on November 1 and 6, 2016 and, once again, it was represented that no recordings existed. In the meantime, on October 31, 2016 defense counsel sent a standard discovery request to the District Attorney's Office. The Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case which replied on November 2, 2016 "that all discovery materials and evidence currently in the possession of the State have previously been provided to the Defendant."

         Defense counsel continued to question whether videos existed, including any cruiser cam video and a video recording from the booking room at the Augusta Police Department. Defense counsel sent an email to the ADA on January 5, 2017, to which the ADA responded that he would check again. In a letter dated May 25, 2017, the Assistant District Attorney handling this case at that time confirmed that no cruiser cam video existed, [1] nor was a video of the Augusta Police Department booking room available. Defense counsel again inquired about any videos in an email dated August 18, 2017. The DA's Office responded on September 5, 2017 attaching a copy of its earlier letter of May 25, 2017 "about the lack of any videos in this case." At some point thereafter, it was learned that a video recording of the May 28, 2016 intoxilyzer test of the Defendant at the Augusta Police Department had existed but had been over-written and had never been requested by Trooper Vanadestine or the District Attorney's Office. The Defendant filed his Motion for Discovery Sanctions on February 8, 2018.


         The Defendant does not contend that Trooper Vanadestine or anyone representing the State acted in bad faith or acted deliberately to destroy evidence. Moreover, the Defendant has acknowledged that the "intoxilyzer" video cannot be shown to be evidence the exculpatory value of which "was apparent before the evidence was destroyed." See State v. Cote, 2015 ME 78, ¶15, 118 A.3d 805. As a result, the Defendant, through defense counsel, confirmed at the hearing that he is not asserting a constitutional due process violation or claim. Rather, he is seeking the sanction of dismissal of the charges for a violation of the discovery requirements of M.R.U.Crim.P. 16. The State has argued that no sanction at all should be imposed, but if one is imposed it should consist of something similar to what was approved by the Law Court in State v. Cruthirds, 2014 ME 86, «J ¶ 35 & 36, 96 A.3d 80, where the trial court instructed the jury that the State and the investigating law enforcement agency had lost witness statements thereby violating the rules of discovery and telling the jury that it could consider how well the investigation was handled in its evaluation of the evidence.[2]

         Rule 16(a)(1) requires the attorney for the State to provide automatic discovery with respect to certain matters. Specifically, automatic discovery includes a statement describing any evidence intended to be used against the defendant that resulted from any admission or statement made by the defendant, and any written or recorded statements made by the defendant. M.R.U.Crim.P. 16(a)(2)(B)(ii) & (2)(C). In addition, the State's attorney is required to ...

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