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State v. Davis

Supreme Court of Maine

August 14, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
MATTHEW R. DAVIS

          Argued: May 15, 2018

          Tina Heather Nadeau, Esq. (orally), The Law Office of Tina Heather Nadeau, PLLC, Portland, for appellant Matthew R. Davis

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Donald W. Macomber, 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.

          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] Matthew R. Davis appeals from a judgment of conviction entered by the trial court (Aroostook County, Hunter, J.) for a total of ten charges-two counts of intentional or knowing murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A) (2017); four counts of arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 802(1)(A) (2017); one count of theft (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 353(1)(B)(1) (2017); two counts of theft (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. § 353(1)(B)(4) (2017); and one count of aggravated criminal mischief (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. § 805(1)(A) (2017)-after a jury trial. Davis contends that the court erred by denying his motion in limine that sought to exclude certain identification testimony.[1] He argues that the out-of-court identification was produced by an impermissibly suggestive procedure that rendered the testimony unreliable and therefore inadmissible. We conclude that the court did not err by allowing the jury to consider the identification testimony because the witness's identification was independently reliable and we therefore affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Events of September 23, 2013

         [¶2] "Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence in the record supports the following facts." State v. Fahnley, 2015 ME 82, ¶ 2, 119 A.3d 727. In the early morning hours of September 23, 2013, Davis drove his tow truck through the gate at Katahdin Forest Products in Oakfield. Thereafter, he backed the tow truck into one of Katahdin's buildings and broke into and set fire to another of Katahdin's buildings. Davis then stole a pickup truck owned by Katahdin and fled.

         [¶3] After driving only about a half mile, Davis stopped at Heidi Pratt and Michael Kitchen's home in Oakfield. There he broke into the house and shot and killed both Pratt and Kitchen. Davis then started a fire inside the house, set fire to the Katahdin pickup truck, and went into Pratt and Kitchen's garage.

         [¶4] Inside the garage, Davis broke into a pickup truck owned by Kitchen's family business and backed that truck through the closed garage door. As Davis crashed through the garage door, one of Pratt and Kitchen's neighbors saw Davis driving the truck. Davis fled from Pratt and Kitchen's property in the truck and, after driving approximately four miles, parked the truck near a camp on Mattawamkeag Lake. Davis broke into the camp's garage and stole a kayak and a paddle. Before leaving the camp, he set fire to Kitchen's truck. Davis then paddled the kayak to the other side of Mattawamkeag Lake where he broke into a camp on Beaver Dam Point Road.

         [¶5] Later that morning, Davis stole a car from a different property off Beaver Dam Point Road. By this time, the discovery of Davis's tow truck at the site of the Katahdin Products fire caused Maine State Troopers to be in the area and looking for him. A State Trooper stopped the car Davis was driving on Beaver Dam Point Road. After positively identifying Davis, the trooper took him into custody.

         [¶6] Based on those events, a grand jury (Aroostook County) indicted Davis on November 7, 2013, charging him with two counts of intentional or knowing murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A); four counts of arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 802(1)(A); one count of theft (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 353(1)(B)(1); two counts of theft (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. § 353(1)(B)(4); and one count of aggravated criminal mischief (Class C), 17-A M.R.S. § 805(1)(A). B. Motion in Limine and Trial

         [¶7] On August 11, 2014, Davis moved in limine for the court to exclude any identification testimony from the neighbor who saw Davis crash through Pratt and Kitchen's garage door and then flee in the truck. Two years later, on August 11 and 16, 2016, the court [Hunter, J.) held testimonial hearings related to the motion in limine. By order dated August 18, 2016, the court made the following findings of fact, which are supported by competent evidence in the motion record. See State v. Prinkleton, 2018 ME 16, ¶ 2, 178 A.3d 474.

         [¶8] At approximately 4:00 a.m. on September 23, 2013, Pratt and Kitchen's next-door neighbors awoke to the sound of multiple gunshots. They went outside to see what was happening and saw that Pratt and Kitchen's home was on fire. As one of the neighbors got close to the home, a truck crashed through the garage door. The area where the truck came through the door was lit up by an exterior light located at the center peak of the garage. In order to determine if the driver was either Pratt or Kitchen, the neighbor looked through the truck's windshield and "locked eyes" with the truck's driver.

         [¶9] The neighbor was standing several feet from the front of the vehicle when it crashed through the garage door, and he looked directly at the driver of the truck for approximately four seconds. He did not immediately recognize the driver but could tell that it was neither Pratt nor Kitchen. As the vehicle sped out of the driveway, both neighbors ran back toward their house and called 9-1-1. Later that morning, law enforcement officers spoke with the neighbor who had locked eyes with the driver (the witness) and the witness said that he did not know the identity of the driver, but he described the driver as a white male with a light complexion, no facial hair, a short "buzzed off" haircut, and really big eyes.

         [¶10] When Davis was taken to the Aroostook County Jail on September 24, 2013, the Aroostook County Sheriff's Department took a "booking photo" of him. Shortly thereafter, the Maine State Police issued a press release indicating that Davis had been arrested in connection with Pratt and Kitchen's deaths. This press release caused various news media outlets to request the booking photo from the jail, and, pursuant to its policy, the jail released the booking photo, which depicted Davis's face and shoulders as well as ...


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