HOULTON, Maine — After more than 11 hours of deliberation, jurors in Aroostook County found a Fitchburg, Massachusetts, man guilty Wednesday of the murder and robbery of an Oakfield man more than two years ago.
After hearing five days of testimony in Aroostook County Superior Court, jurors in the case against Marcus Asante, 23, began deliberating his fate Tuesday afternoon and, after breaking for the night at about 6, continued again all day Wednesday before reaching a guilty verdict shortly after 5 p.m.
Asante was accused of killing Douglas Morin Jr., 31, on Oct. 16, 2016, after an argument broke out over a drug deal.
Prosecutors maintained that Asante shot Morin nine times, and left him to die of head and neck wounds as he sat in his Lincoln Town Car on the PD Road in Sherman.
Asante had no visible reaction to the verdict, but Danielle Morin, Morin’s sister, sobbed when the verdict was read.
Darin Goulding, 29, and Tia Leigh Ludwick, 24, both of Leominster, Massachusetts, were in the car and also charged in connection with the crime.
Ludwick pleaded guilty in February to murder and robbery, and was sentenced in April to 17 years in prison.
Goulding pleaded guilty in February to robbery in exchange for the state dismissing a murder charge against him if he agreed to testify against Asante. He has not yet been sentenced.
According to Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, Ludwick, who was Morin’s cousin, had contacted Morin about buying 10 pounds of marijuana from him.
Goulding testified that the trio planned from the start to rob Morin when they met with him on the rural woods road to complete the transaction. He said that while the group was inside Morin’s car, Morin pulled out his marijuana and asked for payment. It was then, Goulding said, that Ludwick, who was in the front passenger’s seat, grabbed the bag and Morin, who was in the driver’s seat, began tugging it back. He said that he saw Morin brandish a silver gun and that Asante, who was sitting in the back seat behind Morin, had a black gun and began firing.
Asante took the stand to defend himself on Tuesday and tried to shift the blame. He testified that he had planned to give Morin $20,000 to buy the 10 pounds of marijuana.
But he told the jurors that when he looked in the duffel bag that Morin had brought, he did not think there was that much marijuana in it. He also said that he did not like the quality of the marijuana, and thus didn’t want to pay the full asking price.
An argument broke out and Morin pulled a gun on them, Asante said. The defendant said that Morin pulled the trigger but that the weapon did not fire. That’s when Goulding shot Morin, Asante testified.
Asante also admitted that he gave police conflicting statements about the events when he was first arrested because he “didn’t want to get into trouble.”
During closing statements on Tuesday, however, Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, who prosecuted the case with Macomber, stressed to jurors that only Asante was responsible for killing Morin. Alsop said that the .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun bullets retrieved from Morin’s body were “consistent” with ammunition found in Asante’s possession when he was eventually arrested in Massachusetts.
He also pointed out that Asante confirmed during his own testimony that he was seated behind Morin in the Town Car. Kimberly James, a forensic scientist for the state police crime lab, testified Tuesday that the shots that killed Morin could only have been fired from behind the driver’s seat. James said that the headrest had areas that tested positive for burned gunpowder residue and for lead, and had areas of dark soot on it.
Alsop told jurors that it would have been highly unlikely that Goulding, who was sitting behind the passenger’s seat, could have contorted his body to shoot Morin as described by the forensic scientist.
“Asante shot [Morin] and left him dead,” Alsop told the jurors. “He had Morin’s marijuana with him when the police raided the apartment where he was staying. … Make no mistake about it. This was murder, and it was intentional.”
Defense Attorney Brian Kelley stressed to the jurors that Asante was a scared kid who lied to police because he was overwhelmed by being questioned by investigators.
Kelley also sought to shift the blame to Goulding, telling the jury that it was more likely that he was the one who shot Morin.
The defense attorney said that Maine State Police investigators had lied to Asante during their initial interview, telling him that they had his DNA on certain items when they did not. He also told jurors that Asante did not have to take the stand in his own defense, and painted him as a nervous young man who made a mistake and got “in over his head.”
“Police were only interested in my client,” Kelley said, “They never looked anywhere else.”
Asante will be sentenced at a later date and faces 25 years to life in prison.
Alsop said after the trial ended Wednesday that he was “gratified by the jury’s verdict” and thanked the state police investigators, particularly Detective Chad Lindsey, for their efforts.
Douglas Morin Sr, the victim’s father, also was thankful for the verdict, adding that he was mindful of the fact that both families had lost something because of the trial.
“I don’t take any pleasure in two losses,” he said.
Morin Sr. said he had no idea that Ludwick could set up a robbery like that against his son. He said that Ludwick and his son had always gotten along, and that he had no idea she had a drug problem.
“This came from way out of left field,” he said Wednesday.