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State v. Fournier

Supreme Court of Maine

February 21, 2019


          Argued: December 12, 2018

          Rory A. McNamara, Esq. (orally), Drake Law, LLC, Berwick, for appellant Philip S. Fournier

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


          JABAR, J.

         [¶l] Philip S. Fournier appeals from a judgment of conviction of murder, 17-A M.R.S. §201(1)(A) (2017), entered by the court (Penobscot County, A. Murray, J.) after an eleven-day jury-waived trial. Fournier challenges (1) the court's method of considering evidence of alternative suspects, (2) the court's exclusion of a detective's opinion testimony, (3) the court's finding that Fournier waived his religious privilege, and (4) the court's factual findings relating to Fournier's whereabouts from 8:00 p.m. until 8:45 p.m. on the day of the murder.[1] We affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, the trial record supports the following facts, which were found by the court in its judgment dated February 22, 2018. See State v. Jeskey, 2016 ME 134, ¶ 2, 146 A.3d 127. Because Fournier did not request findings of fact pursuant to M.R.U. Crim. P. 23(c), we will also infer that the trial court found all of the facts necessary to support its judgment, to the extent that those assumed facts are supported by competent record evidence. See State v. Fox, 2017 ME 52, ¶ 12, 157A.3d778.

         [¶3] In the early evening of August 8, 1980, a group of teenagers and young adults gathered at Schenck High School in East Millinocket. Among the group that gathered at the high school that evening was nineteen-year-old Fournier. During the same evening, the sixteen-year-old victim left her home in East Millinocket to go for a jog. At approximately 7:55 p.m., [2] three people saw the victim heading down Orchard Street. The same three individuals saw the victim turn off Orchard Street and proceed down a dirt road behind the first base dugout of a little league field;[3] this was the last time that anyone reported seeing the victim alive.

         [¶4] At some point between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., Fournier was seen by several people with a person named Leroy; they were walking away from the high school toward the little league field. One individual saw Fournier and Leroy drinking whiskey out of a bottle on their way to the field.

         [¶5] At approximately 8:15 p.m., Leroy was seen back at the high school pacing, talking to himself, and exhibiting other strange behaviors. Fournier was not seen again until approximately 8:45 p.m., when an East Millinocket police officer saw Fournier with Leroy. Fournier was also seen by another individual at around 9:00 p.m. He was running on the sidewalk by the high school and carrying a bottle of whiskey; another person was seen running about eight to ten feet behind him. In the early morning of August 9, 1980, Fournier stole an oil truck and crashed it into another vehicle. After the crash, Fournier was found unconscious; he had suffered severe head trauma and was in a coma for a period of time.

         [¶6] When the victim did not return home on the evening of August 8, 1980, her mother made phone calls and drove around East Millinocket looking for her. August 8, 1980, was a hot summer evening, and heavy thunderstorms moving through East Millinocket made the victim's mother's search difficult. The following day, a group of people, including a teenager named Peter, joined in the search for the victim. The search efforts on Saturday, August 9, 1980, were unsuccessful, and the group discontinued the search at night and made plans to continue the search early the next morning.

         [¶7] In the early morning of Sunday, August 10, 1980, Peter began searching for the victim alone and, at approximately 6:00 a.m., he found the victim's body on the pole line behind the soccer and little league field. East Millinocket and Maine State Police responded to the scene and quickly discovered that the victim had a large jagged wound on the back of her head. A large rock with ceramic debris on top of it was located next to the victim's head, and it was later determined that the ceramic debris came from an electric insulator.

         [¶8] A police dog employed at the scene assisted investigators in finding several articles of the victim's clothing and a partially broken insulator on the ground. The next day, the police dog was brought back to the scene and it again alerted to the partially broken insulator, which at that time was collected by investigators as the potential murder weapon. In addition, ...

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