Argued: September 12, 2018
Pratt, Esq. (orally), and Ellen Simmons, Esq., Camden, for
appellant Robert Burton
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Donald W. Macomber, Asst.
Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta,
for appellee State of Maine
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
In the early hours of June 5, 2015, Robert Burton entered the
home of his former girlfriend and shot her three times in the
back, killing her. He fled into the woods and evaded law
enforcement officials for sixty-eight days before turning
himself in. Burton was charged with, and found guilty of,
intentional or knowing murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A)
(2017), and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person
(Class C), 15 M.R.S. § 393(1)(A-1) (2017). Burton
appeals from the resulting judgment of conviction (Penobscot
County, Mullen, J.), presenting two arguments. He
first asserts that the court erred by rejecting six questions
that he sought to have included in the written jury selection
questionnaire and by not giving the prospective jurors the
option of answering any of the questions with "not
sure" as an alternative to "yes" or
"no." Second, Burton contends that the court erred
by admitting evidence of two prior burglary convictions to
impeach his trial testimony. See M.R. Evid. 609.
Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.
"Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
State, the jury rationally could have found the following
facts beyond a reasonable doubt." State v.
Fortune, 2011 ME 125, ¶ 3, 34 A.3d 1115.
Burton and the victim began a romantic relationship in the
spring of 2013. Shortly thereafter, Burton moved into the
victim's home in Parkman, where they lived together with
her two children. By May of 2015, Burton was acting
increasingly suspicious of the victim's activities. After
a confrontation on May 30, the victim ended their
relationship and directed Burton to move out of her home.
Burton then began living in his truck in the woods. On June
5, 2015, shortly after midnight, Burton left his truck parked
on a tote road and walked to the victim's house. Armed
with a knife and wearing a shirt to which he had affixed
strips of duct tape, Burton entered the victim's house
through a bedroom window. A struggle between Burton and the
victim ensued, and Burton fatally shot the victim three times
in the back with the victim's own handgun. Burton, who
sustained a minor gunshot wound during the altercation, fled
into the woods. Despite an intensive search by law
enforcement officers, it was two months before he was
arrested, after emerging from the woods clean-shaven and with
his gunshot wound nearly fully healed and turning himself in
to the Piscataquis County Jail.
Three days after the homicide, while Burton was still at
large, he was charged by complaint with one count of
intentional or knowing murder. See 17'-A M.R.S.
§ 201(1)(A). That October, the Piscataquis County grand
jury indicted Burton for that charge and one count of
possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. See
15 M.R.S. § 393(1)(A-1). Burton pleaded not guilty to
each charge. The court later granted Burton's motion to
change venue, and the case was transferred to the Unified
Criminal Docket in Penobscot County. As part of the pretrial
proceedings, Burton moved in limine for the court to exclude
evidence of his prior criminal convictions for impeachment
purposes, see M.R. Evid. 609, and the parties agreed
to defer the issue to the time of trial.
The trial was held in late September and early October of
2017. Burton elected to have the court adjudicate the
firearms charge and proceeded with a jury trial on the murder
Jury selection encompassed two days. Burton submitted a list
of twenty-one voir dire questions that he requested the court
include in a written questionnaire that was to be distributed
to the members of the jury pool. Each of Burton's
proposed questions was followed by three possible answer
choices: "yes," "no," and "not
sure." Over Burton's objection, the court declined
to include "not sure" as an answer and also
declined to include the following six questions proposed by
Burton that are at issue on this appeal:
3. Do you believe that because a police officer has arrested
someone for murder it means the person arrested is likely
5. Do you feel or believe Mr. Burton looks like he may be
guilty of the charge of murder? ...
10. Would you have any difficulty in finding Mr. Burton not
guilty if you had a reasonable ...