Argued: May 16, 2019
Judgment affirmed. Rory A. McNamara, Esq. (orally), Drake
Law, LLC, Berwick, for appellant Zachariah J. Pelletier
S. Robinson, District Attorney, and Joseph M. O'Connor,
Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Office of the District Attorney,
South Paris, for appellee State of Maine
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Zachariah J. Pelletier appeals from a judgment of conviction
entered by the trial court (Oxford County, Clifford,
J.) upon guilty verdicts returned by the jury on the
offenses of eluding an officer (Class C), 29-A M.R.S. §
2414(3) (2018); driving to endanger (Class E), 29-A M.R.S.
§ 2413(1) (2018); criminal speeding (Class E), 29-A
M.R.S. §2074(3) (2018); and operating after suspension
(Class E), 29-A M.R.S. § 2412-A(l-A)(A) (2018).
Pelletier argues that the court erred by interfering with the
State's discretion in deciding whether to dismiss the
case and by admitting in evidence a photograph taken at the
time of his arrest. We affirm the judgment.
"Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
State, the jury could rationally have found the following
facts beyond a reasonable doubt." State v.
Anderson, 2016 ME 183, ¶ 2, 152 A.3d 623 (quotation
marks omitted). On July 11, 2017, a patrol sergeant with the
Oxford Police Department observed a vehicle travelling in
excess of the posted speed limit. The officer had a clear
view of the driver as the vehicle passed; he identified the
driver as a male in his twenties with short, dark hair. The
officer activated his blue lights, but the driver increased
his speed. The officer pursued the vehicle, reaching speeds
approaching 110 miles per hour. After the officer was close
enough to get the driver's license plate number, he
discontinued the pursuit.
The officer went to the address listed on the vehicle's
registration and learned from the registered owner that her
daughter was in possession of the vehicle in question. The
owner further told the officer that the daughter lived with
her boyfriend, Zachariah Pelletier, and provided the officer
with their address. The street address that the owner
provided to him led the officer to a booking photograph of
Pelletier taken several weeks earlier, and he identified the
person in the photograph as the driver. The officer obtained
a warrant for Pelletier's arrest. Upon Pelletier's
arrest several months later, a second booking photo of him
In December, Pelletier was charged by indictment with eluding
an officer (Class C), 29-A M.R.S. § 2414(3); driving to
endanger (Class E), 29-AM.R.S. § 2413(1); criminal
speeding (Class E), 29-A M.R.S. § 2074(3); operating
after suspension (Class E), 29-A M.R.S. §
2412-A(l-A)(A); and violation of condition of release (Class
E), 15 M.R.S. § 1092(1)(A) (2018).
Before trial, Pelletier filed a motion in limine seeking to
exclude from evidence the photograph that the officer had
used to identify Pelletier as the driver of the vehicle that
had eluded him, arguing that it was evident that the image
was a booking photo and would therefore create an unfairly
negative inference regarding his culpability. A pretrial
conference was held on the motion at which the State
disagreed that the photograph was obviously a booking
photograph because the height chart, numbers, and name plate
had been removed from the photograph. The photograph included
only a "head and shoulders" image of Pelletier in
front of a painted cinderblock wall. The court determined
that identification was the main issue in the case and
therefore the photograph should be admitted. However, the
court also ordered that the photograph was not to be referred
to as a booking photograph in front of the jury.
The parties then proceeded to discuss the second photograph,
which was taken at the time of Pelletier's arrest for the
charges at issue in the trial. Pelletier asserted that it was
inevitable that the jury would understand that the second
photograph was a booking photograph because of when it was
taken. He argued that the second photograph should not be
admitted because it was not used for identification purposes
and had no probative value. He argued further that because
the two photographs were so similar-"strikingly
similar" as the court put it on multiple occasions-if
the jury knew that the second photograph was a booking
photograph, it would inevitably make the inferential leap to
conclude that the first photograph was also a booking
photograph, which would be unduly prejudicial. The court
ruled that the second photograph would be admitted in
evidence because Pelletier's defense questioned the
officer's identification of him-the first photograph is
what the officer relied on in identifying the driver, and the
second photograph, which documents the appearance of the
individual actually arrested by the officer, confirms the
officer's identification of Pelletier as the
The court held a one-day jury trial in July 2018. At trial,
despite direct instructions from the prosecution not to
describe the photo as a booking photo, the officer testified
that the State's first exhibit was "an in-house
booking picture from the Oxford County jail."
Pelletier's counsel objected, stating that there had been
"an extensive discussion about the first picture. It was
not to be referred to as a booking photo." Pelletier
asked for a curative instruction, which the court gave to the
jury. On cross-examination, the officer admitted that he had
incorrectly stated the vehicle's registration number on
direct examination and in his initial report.
After the officer's testimony, the prosecutor requested a
bench conference. The following colloquy took place out of
the presence of the jury.
Defense: Did you rest?
The court: He has not rested.
State: However, Your Honor, if I do rest now and if counsel
makes a motion for acquittal, I won't object. That was
Defense: I make a motion for acquittal, Your Honor.
State: I rest. Now she makes a motion for acquittal.
The court: Okay. I have to view this in the light most