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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday ordered that an Oxford County man serving life for a 2019 double murder be resentenced because of a technical error made by the Superior Court justice who imposed the sentence.

Mark Penley, 53, of Peru was sentenced in November 2021 at the Oxford County Courthouse in South Paris by Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren, now retired, to two life sentences.

A resentencing date has not been set.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, who handled the case, said Thursday that his office would ask that a life sentence be reimposed. The defense team will be able to argue for a lesser sentence, but Maine law allows a life sentence to be imposed when there are multiple homicide victims.

This booking photo from 2019 shows Mark Penley, charged with murder in connection with the deaths of Heather Bickford and Dana Hill. Credit: Oxford County Jail via AP

The supreme court justices heard oral arguments in the case in October.

Penley fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, Heather Bickford of Canton, and her boyfriend, Dana Hill of South Paris, both 31, on New Year’s Day 2019 at Hill’s apartment, a jury found in October 2021.

Just before the incident, Bickford tried to get a protection order against Penley. She was afraid he would kill her when she requested one on Dec. 31, 2018, because he was following her, according to court documents.

Penley was jealous of Bickford’s relationship with Hill and planned to kill her so that “no one else could have her,” the Maine attorney general’s office, which prosecutes all homicide cases in Maine, argued at the trial.

The error the judge made in sentencing Warren came during the two-step process required in murder cases under Maine law. A judge must first determine a base sentence using similar cases and precedents already set. During this step, a judge may consider whether the victims were related to or in a domestic relationship.

In the second step, judges consider the aggravating and mitigating factors and increase or lower the base sentence. In Penley’s case, the history of his relationship with the victims should have been taken into account.

Warren’s error was in considering those circumstances, including that she had sought a protective order, in the first rather than second step of his sentencing analysis.

“Any history of domestic violence, apart from the commission of the crime itself, is properly considered only in step two,” Justice Rick E. Lawrence wrote for the court.

Rory McNamara, the York attorney who argued Penley’s appeal before Maine’s high court, declined to comment as he has not yet talked to his client about the decision.

McNamara also challenged evidence entered during the trial and statements made by the prosecutor during closing arguments. The state supreme court found that those were harmless errors that did not affect the guilty verdicts.