Man gets 2nd trial, identical verdict

Posted July 24, 2009, at 10:05 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:12 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A Parkman man who had convinced a Superior Court judge that his attorney was ineffective during his 2005 trial for marijuana cultivation was found guilty once again during a second trial Thursday in Piscataquis County Superior Court.

Scott Knowlton, 46, who was arrested for marijuana cultivation in 2004, was found guilty in a jury-waived trial before Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills in 2005. Mills sentenced Knowlton to three years in the Department of Corrections with all but 25 months suspended and placed him on probation for three years. He since has completed his incarceration. Thursday’s jury trial was on the same 2004 marijuana cultivation charge of which he was convicted in 2005.

During the earlier trial, investigator Guy Dow of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department testified that he and other officers had found 77 marijuana plants on the property of Denise Knowlton, Scott Knowlton’s ex-wife, and an additional 33 plants were found on an adjacent property. Denise Knowlton was not charged.

After the trial, Scott Knowlton filed a request for a post-conviction review, saying he had received ineffective assistance from his attorney, Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor, during the trial. Knowlton claimed Williams did not investigate a person who claimed ownership of 30 of the marijuana plants and did not subpoena the person to trial.

Mills granted the post-conviction review, which led to the second trial held this week. In her ruling, she faulted the defense attorney’s decision not to hire an investigator to find and subpoena the person who claimed ownership of some of the plants. She also faulted Williams for not gathering or presenting information about Knowlton’s disability.

Knowlton had undergone surgeries on his neck, both shoulders, both wrists, a leg and his back and was disabled at the time of the crime, according to Mills. Knowlton, who had three steel plates inserted in his neck, had been staying with his ex-wife for her care. Mills said while Knowlton had told Williams about his disability, she did not obtain his medical records, nor did she explore whether his disabilities affected his ability to grow and cultivate marijuana.

“The decision constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel and likely deprived the petitioner of two substantial grounds of defense: first, that he was disabled and incapable of tending to the marijuana plants; and second, that he did not plant the plants on the Curtis property, which would have at least reduced to below 100 the number of plants attributable to the petitioner,” Mills wrote.

Williams did not return a telephone call Friday seeking comment.

Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy was pleased with the outcome of Thursday’s trial. “It was a pretty straightforward case, and we’re happy the jury came to the same conclusion Justice Mills did back in 2005 when she convicted him,” he said Friday.

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