Attorney questions evidence in sex abuse case

By Diana Graettinger,
Posted March 04, 2009, at 8:42 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — A Washington County Superior Court jury last week found a 38-year-old Calais man guilty of sexual abuse of a minor. But it appears Troy Claridge’s day in court is not over.

His attorney, Donald Brown of Brewer, said Monday he had questions about how DNA evidence was presented at the trial.

After the jury reached its verdict, Justice E. Allen Hunter ordered a transcript of the trial be prepared and set a hearing on the matter for later this month.

In November 2006, Claridge, who was 35 years old at the time, was charged with three counts of sexual abuse of a minor involving two 14-year-old girls from Calais. The incident allegedly happened at his home in Calais.

First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said Monday that two of the charges were dismissed by the judge after the alleged second victim ended up in the hospital and was unable to testify. The hospitalization apparently was not connected to the case.

“The court dismissed those two counts and said we could recharge [Claridge] when the victim’s health allowed,” Cavanaugh said.

The case originally was set to go to trial in October 2008, but was dismissed after Cavanaugh questioned the jury selection process. He alleged that Brown had eliminated women from the pool of jurors. After some discussions, the judge agreed and declared the jury selection process was “tainted” and ordered a new trial.

The new trial began Feb. 24.

During the trial, Brown raised questions about how well the State Crime Lab had handled the DNA analysis. He alleged there were problems with contamination during testing.

Cavanaugh denied there were any problems. He said that in 2007, Claridge’s former attorney requested a delay in the trial so his experts could review the DNA results. There apparently weren’t any problems, he said.

Cavanaugh said when Brown was appointed to represent Claridge, Brown made a request to have his experts examine the material.

“In fact, the state gave Mr. Brown over 100 pages of material from the crime lab in Augusta,” Cavanaugh said. “All of their work, and scientific notes and graphs and charts.”

But Brown wants his experts to examine the state’s evidence again and has referred everything to a lab in West Haven, Conn. Brown said he believes his client will be acquitted once the judge has an opportunity to review his objections.

Meanwhile, Claridge remains in jail. There are other charges pending against the Calais man, including violation of bail conditions and allegedly selling drugs to a confidential informant while on bail.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/03/04/news/state/attorney-questions-evidence-in-sex-abuse-case/ printed on September 21, 2014