A man serving life in prison for fatally shooting an on-duty Maine sheriff’s deputy in 2018 has requested a new trial after learning that one of the police officers who arrested him was disciplined a day before testifying about his case in court.
John D. Williams, who was convicted in June 2019 for murdering Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Eugene Cole, alleged that the Maine attorney general’s office failed to tell his defense attorney about the officer’s recent discipline, despite the fact prosecutors had a constitutional obligation to provide him with any information that could be used to question the credibility of officers testifying in his case.
On Feb. 28, 2019, Maine State Police Trooper Tyler Maloon testified during a hearing over whether the court should throw out the confession Williams made to officers shortly after he was captured following a four-day manhunt in the woods of central Maine. Williams’ attorney, Verne Paradie Jr., argued that his client only confessed to the killing because he’d been beaten up by the officers who found him hiding in an abandoned camp. Under pressure to avoid further beatings, Williams later told them what he believed they wanted to hear, his lawyer argued.
While the court rejected the defense’s argument that Williams’ confession was beaten out of him, and allowed most of his past statements to police to be admitted as evidence in his trial in June 2019, the officers who arrested Williams gave conflicting accounts of the capture.
When Maloon took the stand, he contradicted the testimony of Maine State Police Special Agent Glenn Lang. Lang said he struck Williams in the face because Williams resisted being placed in handcuffs, but Maloon told the court he saw Lang throw an extra punch after Williams was in handcuffs. Williams had a black eye in his booking photo after the arrest.
The day before the trooper’s testimony contradicting the special agent’s, the state police punished Maloon “for failing to provide notice to his chain of command of a potential act of misconduct and to provide proper documentation of the misconduct,” Paradie wrote in a Feb. 12 motion he filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, which became public Friday.
While Paradie doesn’t know the exact details of the misconduct Maloon failed to report, “it seems highly likely given the nature of the discipline and its timing that it was related to the misconduct of one or more officers during the arrest of Williams,” the lawyer argued.
“The State had an obligation to provide this significant information to the Defendant, with or without a request to do so,” the motion states. “It is unclear as to why the State did not provide this information, especially given the fact that Defendant specifically requested any such information and given the fact that the conduct during the arrest was a crucial part of the defense’s case.”
Paradie is seeking to compel the attorney general’s office to provide Paradie with Maloon’s disciplinary records. He is asking the court to grant Williams a new trial because the prosecution previously failed to turn over the records, which Paradie could have used to question Maloon’s credibility or the credibility of other officers in his client’s case.
The attorney general’s office said Friday afternoon that it was not aware Maloon had been formally disciplined by the state police, which was why prosecutors didn’t turn over the records.
But the office does not believe it withheld from Williams any information that could have been used in his defense, in part because prosecutors had already provided Williams with “copies of investigative reports that demonstrated that Trooper Maloon did not initially report his observations of Mr. Williams being struck,” spokesman Marc Malon said.
While Maloon may have failed to tell the state police that he saw Lang strike Williams after he was in handcuffs, Maloon later told the attorney general’s office, Malon said. His statements prompted prosecutors to provide that information to Williams because prosecutors considered it to be exculpatory material they had an obligation to hand over.
“The events that lead (sic) to the disciplinary action were provided to the defense prior to the Motion to Suppress and the trial. Trooper Maloon was a defense witness at trial,” Malon said. “The Motion for a New Trial and the State’s position will have a full hearing and we are confident that the State has met its obligations.”
Williams, 32, has been incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren since he was sentenced to life in 2019. Though Williams fought to have his confession tossed, he has never denied shooting Cole.
Rather, he has only denied that the shooting constituted the crime of murder, arguing that his severe drug use at the time of the shooting meant he wasn’t capable of understanding the consequences of his actions when he pulled the trigger. During his 2019 trial, Paradie tried unsuccessfully to convince the jury to convict Williams of manslaughter.
This is the second time Williams has sought a new trial.
In November, Maine’s high court upheld Williams’ murder conviction, rejecting Paradie’s appeal of the outcome. The lawyer argued that the state’s in-court re-enactment by two law enforcement officers of how the shooting occurred should not have been presented to jurors.