The man serving a life sentence for slaying an on-duty police officer has asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to grant him a new trial based on an arresting officer’s disciplinary record that prosecutors allegedly withheld from the defense.
The state’s high court next week will hear the second appeal from John D. Williams, 33, of Madison, who was convicted by a jury of murdering Somerset County Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole, 61, in April 2018 in Norridgewock. He is serving a life sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren.
Cole was the first Maine law enforcement officer shot to death in the line of duty in nearly three decades. His slaying sparked a four-day manhunt in which hundreds of law enforcement officers scoured the Norridgewock area for Williams.
Williams was captured on April 28, 2018, in the woods where the manhunt was focused.
Prior to his trial, defense attorney Verne Paradie of Lewiston argued that police who discovered Williams beat him as they took him into custody, and that Williams told the detectives who interviewed him what they wanted to hear because he was afraid he’d be beaten again.
Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, however, concluded before the trial that police had not beaten a confession out of Williams and allowed the jury to hear his confession.
In his first appeal, which the state’s high court rejected in November 2020, Williams argued that prosecutors should not have presented two law enforcement officers’ re-enactment of the shooting to the jury.
But the latest appeal is based on information Paradie learned after his client was convicted and sentenced about the discipline record of Maine State Police Trooper Tyler Maloon, a member of the arrest team. Maloon was disciplined the day before he testified at a hearing in which Williams’ defense team sought to suppress from evidence the statements Williams made after his arrest.
Paradie sought a new trial for Williams after learning about the officer’s discipline in February 2021. The attorney claims in his appeal brief that Mullen’s decision not to grant the convicted murderer a new trial based on the new evidence was wrong.
“The evidence that Trooper Maloon was disciplined for not reporting misconduct of another state trooper is both exculpatory and impeaching,” Paradie said in his brief. “The issue of the voluntariness of Mr. Williams’ confession to police was central to his defense in this matter. In that confession, he made extremely damaging statements that contradicted his defense that he did not intend to kill Deputy Cole and that his actions were not knowing or intentional.”
Maloon was suspended for one day for failing to provide notice to his chain of command of a potential act of misconduct and to provide proper documentation of the misconduct, according to the brief.
The alleged misconduct occurred when Maine State Police Lt. Glenn Lang hit Williams twice while taking him into custody.
Paradie claims that the Maine attorney general’s office was constitutionally obligated to share Maloon’s disciplinary record prior to the trial so the defense could use it to question Maloon and other arresting officers’ credibility.
Staff attorneys at the attorney general’s office argued that the trooper’s disciplinary record did not meet the high legal standard required to order a new trial.
“The fact that Trooper Maloon was deemed to have violated an internal reporting process in not promptly reporting his observations to the chain of command was not material, exculpatory or impeaching,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese and Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said in the state’s brief.
The prosecutors urged the state’s high court to find as Mullen did and rule that there was “literally little to no possibility, much less probability, that if the defense had known about this evidence the result of the trial would have been different.”
Justices will hear oral arguments at 1:30 p.m. March 8 in person at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.