The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will consider this week whether to reverse the conviction and set aside the 45-year sentence of an an East Millinocket man who was found guilty of the 1980 murder of 16-year-old Joyce McLain.
Philip Scott Fournier, 57, was convicted in February by Superior Court Justice Ann Murray following a jury-waived trial. She sentenced Fournier, who was 19 when McLain was killed, in April.
The justices will hear oral arguments in the case at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday. The appeal is just one of the cases the state’s high court will consider this week when justices convene Tuesday and Wednesday at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. An online audio stream will be available.
If the state’s high court were to reverse Fournier’s conviction, it would be up to the Maine attorney general’s office to decide whether to retry him.
Rory McNamara of Berwick, who is representing Fournier in his appeal but was not his attorney during the trial, said in his brief that Murray should not have excluded evidence about alternative suspects, or testimony by a detective about why he did not arrest Fournier when he confessed in 1981.
He also is appealing Murray’s ruling that Fournier waived his religious privilege by telling his parents what he told his minister as well as her decision that Fournier was not at a local party between 8 and 8:45 p.m. Aug. 8, the night McLain disappeared.
Assistant Attorney General Lara Nomani argued in the state’s brief that the judge properly excluded and admitted all evidence. She also agreed with the judge that Fournier waived his right to religious privilege. Fournier told his parents in front of the minister to whom he confessed that he killed McLain that he did not sexually assault the teenage girl because “it was the wrong time of the month.”
Also this week, justices will hear the appeal of Thomas Ferguson, 40, of Brooklyn, New York, who is serving a 50-year sentence for killing one man and wounding another in a Bangor apartment in the early morning hours of Black Friday 2015.
In June 2016, Superior Court Justice William Anderson found Ferguson guilty of murder in the death of Robert “Ricco” Mark Kennedy, 38, of Bangor and guilty of aggravated assault in the wounding of Barry Jenkins, 42, also of Brooklyn, on Nov. 27, 2015.
His co-defendant, Robert “Rocco” Hansley, 28, also of Brooklyn, was sentenced to 40 years for the same crime.
Hansley was the shooter, but the murder weapon had been given to Ferguson, who arrived on the scene with Hansley, as payment for a drug debt, according to testimony at both trials.
His attorneys are arguing that Anderson found facts that were not in evidence, incorrectly allowed witnesses to identify Ferguson in court and did not have enough evidence to conclude that Ferguson was Hansley’s accomplice. The appeal also alleged prosecutors allowed the surviving victim to give false testimony.
Justices will also take up a Lewiston case that will ask them to decide if a renter who has a medical marijuana card can be evicted for growing pot plants.
There is no timeline under which the justices must issue their decisions.