The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will convene in person this week at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor for the first time since 2017 to hear oral arguments in a variety of appeals.
It will be the first time Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill will sit through a full schedule Tuesday and Wednesday since being sworn in on June 17.
Stanfill replaced Leigh I. Saufley, who stepped down as chief justice in April 2020 to become dean of the University of Maine School of Law, after nearly 20 years as head of Maine’s judiciary.
Stanfill and her fellow six justices convened in person on June 30 for the first time since the pandemic began to consider a request to push back reapportionment deadlines set out in the Maine Constitution because information from the U.S. Census Bureau won’t be available until they have passed. The release of the information was delayed until August because of the pandemic. The court has not yet ruled in that case.
On Wednesday, justices will consider the appeal of a North Carolina man serving a life sentence in connection with a 2017 home invasion that left a Millinocket businessman dead and his wife seriously wounded.
Christopher Murray, 41, of Red Springs, North Carolina, was convicted of murder, elevated aggravated assault and robbery by a jury on Feb. 1, 2019, following a four-day trial.
He was one of three people charged with robbing and shooting Wayne Lapierre, 59, and his wife, Diem (pronounced Yem) Lapierre, now 37, in the basement of their Massachusetts Avenue home on Dec. 19, 2017. Murray, who is incarcerated in his home state, maintains that he did not shoot the couple.
He argues in his appeal that his trial attorneys should have been able to present evidence showing he took part in the crimes under duress. Murray also argues that the surviving victim misidentified him as the man who shot her and the judge should have allowed expert testimony on how such a traumatic event can impact a victim’s memory.
Other cases Maine’s high court will consider include matters concerning divorce, parental rights, landlord liability and a personal injury.
Between March 2020 and May 2021, Maine’s high court considered cases on briefs alone or held oral arguments remotely. Justices convened in person last month at the Cumberland County Courthouse for the first time in more than a year.