Argued: November 5, 2019
Pratt, Esq. (orally), and Ellen Simmons, Esq., Camden, for
appellant Antoinne Bethea
M. Frey, 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
Antoinne Bethea appeals from a judgment of conviction of
manslaughter (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 203(1)(A) (2018),
entered by the trial court (Penobscot County, A. Murray,
J.) following a jury trial on an indictment for murder,
17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A) (2018). Bethea asserts that the
trial court (1) erred in its conduct of voir dire by crafting
race-related questions for potential jurors but not using
questions proposed by Bethea; (2) abused its discretion by
admitting a photograph of the victim with his son; and (3)
abused its discretion by only giving a curative instruction
after the prosecutor misstated the evidence during closing
arguments. We affirm the judgment.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
State, the jury could have found the following facts beyond a
reasonable doubt. See State v. Nobles, 2018 ME 26,
¶ 2, 179 A.3d 910.
On Easter weekend 2017, the victim and a friend traveled to
Bangor. The victim's eight-year-old son lived in Bangor
with his mother-the victim's ex-wife-and Bethea. While
they were together that weekend, the son told his father that
Bethea had been cooking "white stuff" in the
apartment and that the white stuff gave him a headache. The
victim's friend understood the "white stuff" to
be crack cocaine.
After hearing this story from his son, the victim sent
several text messages to his ex-wife. Bethea interpreted
those text messages as threatening. Bethea and the
victim's ex-wife drove to her father's home, where
Bethea retrieved a handgun he had kept hidden there. When
Bethea and the victim's ex-wife returned to their
apartment, they saw the victim and his friend standing in the
driveway. The victim and his friend were waiting for the
victim's son to change his clothes inside. Bethea and the
victim spoke briefly before Bethea entered the apartment.
Bethea testified that he showed his handgun to the
victim's friend as he walked up the stairs to his
Shortly after Bethea returned outside, he started a fight
with the victim. During the fight, the victim's friend
saw Bethea reach for his handgun. The friend then jumped on
Bethea, and the three fell to the ground. While they were on
the ground, Bethea discharged his firearm twice. The shots
struck the victim, causing his death.
Bethea quickly left the scene and cut off his dreadlocks.
Bethea also gave an acquaintance an object wrapped in a sock,
which the acquaintance buried in the woods. The object inside
the sock was the handgun used in the shooting, which law
enforcement eventually recovered.
On April 18, 2017, Bethea was charged by criminal complaint
with murder. See 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A). He
was arrested in Ohio on May 21, 2017. Following his arrest,
Bethea was indicted and, on arraignment, pleaded not guilty.
A jury trial was held in August 2018.
The court used a written questionnaire as part of its voir
dire of potential jurors. Following best practice, see
State v. Roby, 2017 ME 207, ¶ 3 n.2, 171 A.3d 1157,
the court and counsel initially met more than a week prior to
the start of jury selection for an extensive discussion of
proposals for the written questionnaire. The day before the
start of jury selection, the court and the parties met again
to finalize the questionnaire. At these conferences, Bethea
proposed that the court include in the written questionnaire
certain questions designed to identify possible racial biases
held by potential jurors. Bethea also proposed that each
question have answer choices of "YES,"
"NO," or "NOT SURE." The questions
proposed by Bethea included the following:
18. Do you believe or feel African-American men are more
likely to commit crimes when they come to Maine than people