BANGOR, Maine — The verdict Wednesday in the monthlong trial of two men charged with killing three people and then torching a car containing their bodies confounded many of the state’s experienced trial lawyers, while others said jurors’ inability to reach a decision on two murder counts for one defendant might not matter after sentencing.
“At the end of the day, you can only do life once,” famous criminal defense attorney F. Lee Bailey of Yarmouth said Friday in a telephone interview. “I would think if he gets a heavy sentence, they won’t try him again.”
Nicholas Sexton, 33, of Warwick, Rhode Island, was found guilty of the murder of Nicolle Lugdon and of arson, but the jury, after deliberating for nearly 45 hours over five days, could not reach a verdict on the murder counts in connection with the deaths of Daniel Borders and Lucas Tuscano.
The jury found Randall Daluz, 36, of Brockton, Massachusetts, guilty on three counts of murder and one count of arson amid what authorities described as a drug deal gone bad.
Both men face a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life on the murder convictions. They face up to 30 years in prison on the arson conviction. No sentencing date has been set.
Attorneys for both defendants said they would appeal the convictions to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who prosecuted the case, said Wednesday that Maine case law allowed her to seek a life sentence for Daluz because of his convictions on multiple murder counts. Marchese said she would have to do some research to see if she could recommend Sexton spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Sexton’s attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth, predicted after the verdict that his client would be sentenced to between 35 and 50 years in prison.
Marchese said a decision about whether to retry Sexton on the two murder counts on which the jury deadlocked most likely would be made after Sexton’s sentencing.
“The split verdict on one defendant is not easily explained,” attorney Leonard Sharon of Auburn said Thursday in an email. “However, in 44 years of jury trials, I have had verdicts which defy not only logic but the judge’s explanation of the law.”
Sharon said that in the Fryeburg Academy gymnasium arson trial in 2005 in federal court in Portland his client, Maxx Noble, then 19, of Lovell, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit arson but found not guilty of arson in connection with the Oct. 12, 2005, blaze that destroyed the $1.7 million recreation complex as well as athletic equipment.
“[U.S. District Judge D. Brock] Hornby carefully explained that if you find a person guilty of a conspiracy, you may convict someone of any crime which was a foreseeable result of the underlying conspiracy,” Sharon said “The result flummoxed all who watched.”
Former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, who now teaches at Columbia University School of Law in New York City, said that trying to second-guess juries was fruitless. He also said that having two defendants who each blamed the other was “a prosecutor’s nightmare.”
Superior Court Justice William Anderson ruled Sexton and Daluz be tried together at the prosecution’s request. The judge said trying the two together would save time and money. Defense attorneys argued for separate trials and have said they would appeal the decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Concern in the AG’s office over trying defendants separately apparently stems from the 1990 murders on Thanksgiving Day of Paul Lindsay, 23, and Morris “Buddy” Martin, 21, in Fairfield.
The defendants, half-brothers, testified at each other’s trial against the other. Both were found not guilty. Henry P. Lombard was tried before a jury in June 1992 in Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath after a motion for a change of venue was granted. Hubert Hartley was tried in December 1991 before a Somerset County jury in Skowhegan.
Attorney Walter McKee of Augusta predicted the state’s high court would be “very unsympathetic” to the argument that Sexton and Daluz should have been tried separately. The legal standard is to allow the court to try defendants jointly when there are similar facts, the same witnesses and identical testimony, he said.
Bailey, who has never practiced in Maine, was the only attorney contacted who had had a jury out longer than five days in a criminal trial.
“The jury was out 18 days in a bank fraud case in Dallas back during the savings and loan debacle,” he said. “They found him guilty and a severe sentence was imposed, but, [after an appeal], they had to let him go.”
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who heads the criminal division in the Maine attorney general’s office, said that two days for a total of about 24 hours was the longest he could remember a jury deliberating in a murder case in his 35 years on the job.
How long the jury deliberated and the split verdict was not something the public or the state’s policy makers should focus on — the crime itself and the state’s drug problem is, Tierney said.
“This was a horrifying crime by Maine criminal standards,” he said. “This just doesn’t happen here. Forever, half the 25 or so homicides each year have been domestic-violence related, with an occasional stranger slaying. It should be horrifying that three people were killed and then burned by two people coming to Maine to do a drug deal. This is way beyond the way Maine people see themselves and see the state.”