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State v. Sousa

Supreme Court of Maine

December 23, 2019


          Argued: November 4, 2019

          Harris A. Mattson, Esq. (orally), Silverstein Law, P.A., Bangor, for appellant Andrew M. Sousa

          William B. Entwisle, Esq. (orally), Prosecutorial District No. VI, Belfast, for appellee State of Maine


          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] Andrew M. Sousa appeals from a judgment convicting him of robbery and unlawful possession of scheduled drugs, entered by the trial court (Waldo County, R. Murray, J.) after a jury trial. Sousa asserts that the court erred by overruling his objection to an aspect of the State's closing argument that, he contends, improperly suggested that he had the burden of proof. Sousa also argues that he was denied a fair trial because the court failed to address sua sponte the State's alleged misstatement of evidence in its rebuttal argument. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] We draw the following account of the case from the procedural record and the evidence seen in the light most favorable to the State, see State v. Pelletier, 2019 ME 112, ¶ 2, 212 A.3d 325.

         [¶3] On April 9, 2018, Sousa walked into a pharmacy in Unity. His clothing was entirely black, and his head was mostly concealed; only his eyes and hands were exposed. Sousa went to the counter and showed the clerk a note, which directed her to "give [him] all the oxycodone." Despite Sousa's effort to conceal his identity, the clerk was able to recognize him because he was a long-time customer there. Because of the manner of Sousa's dress, his demand for the drugs, and the way he looked at her while keeping one hand in his pocket, the clerk was fearful that if she did not comply, he would react violently. The clerk talked with the pharmacist, who filled a bag with well over one thousand oxycodone pills, and either the clerk or the pharmacist then gave the bag to Sousa. Sousa, who said nothing during the episode, walked out of the pharmacy. The pharmacist activated a distress alarm, and the police responded to the scene. The incident in the pharmacy was recorded by the store's surveillance camera. Law enforcement officials went on the lookout for Sousa until, nine days later, officers arrested him in the vicinity of an encampment in the woods. When he was arrested, he was in possession of nearly 800 pills.

         [¶4] Several days after the incident, before he was arrested, the State filed a criminal complaint charging Sousa with robbery (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 651(1)(B)(2)(2018). Sousa was later indicted for that crime and an additional offense, unlawful possession of scheduled drugs (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 1107-A(1)(C) (2018). Sousa pleaded not guilty to both charges, and the court held a two-day jury trial in February of 2019. At trial, the recording from the store's surveillance camera was shown to the jury, and the parties stipulated that Sousa was the person who committed the act in the pharmacy. The contested issues were whether the State proved that Sousa had placed the clerk in "fear of the imminent use of force" and, if so, whether he did so "intentionally or knowingly." See 17-A M.R.S. § 651(1)(B)(2).[1]

         [¶5] To support his contention that he did not act with the culpable state of mind necessary to commit the crime of robbery, see 17-A M.R.S. § 38 (2018) (stating that "[e]vidence of an abnormal condition of the mind may raise a reasonable doubt as to the existence of a required culpable state of mind"), Sousa presented the testimony of a clinical neuropsychologist who testified that Sousa had been diagnosed with an unspecified schizophrenia spectrum disorder. During Sousa's questioning, the witness testified about the interrelationship between Sousa's mental illness and the emotional and physical pain that was affecting Sousa around the time of the incident:

Q: Do you have an expert perspective on the question of [Sousa's] state of mind at the time that he went into the pharmacy as it bears on this case?
A. Essentially as I reviewed everything and obtained all this information, it struck me that Mr. Sousa was able to act in [a] goal directed manner at that time as far as he had a goal to get medications, he was in severe agony, severe pain, and he wanted to get pain medications. He described how he had been living in very dire straits, essentially, and put in circumstances which increased his pain, his stress, and his general level of emotional difficulty. ... So I think there was a very strong psychological component as well to his pain which worsened the whole situation, including some of it being related to his various delusions or ideas about where some of that pain came from. He was extremely frustrated, very angry about his situation, and essentially very desperate. At the time I believe that he, again, was just looking to have a basic need met. He was in severe pain, severe agony, and wanted some relief, and I think that was about the extent of his thought process at that time.
Q: Do you believe that this combination of factors likely had a negative impact on [Sousa's] ability to know the effect that his ...

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