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Judge denies bail for teen accused of murder

Bangor Daily News | BDN
Bangor Daily News | BDN
Zachary Carr entered a not guilty plea in connection with the shooting death of John "Bobby" Surles, 19, during a group fight on Cumberland Street in Bangor on Jan 27, 2010, during his arraignment at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Wednesday, March 17, 2010. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Citing concerns for public safety, a Superior Court judge on Friday denied bail to the local teenager charged in the January shooting death of 19-year-old John “Bobby” Surles, described by Bangor police as a transient.

Justice Michaela Murphy also found there was probable cause to charge Zachary Carr, 18, with intentional or knowing murder in Surles’ death. Her decisions came at the end of an hourlong hearing at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

A trial date has not been set.

Carr is accused of shooting an unarmed Surles with a 9 mm handgun about 6 p.m. Jan. 27 in a confrontation outside 62 Cumberland St. in Bangor, according to court documents filed earlier this year. Carr allegedly shot Surles during a fight near the apartment where Carr lived.

Surles allegedly told a passer-by who came to his aid that “Zach Carr” was the person who shot him. He died about 28 hours after the shooting at Eastern Maine Medical Center from injuries caused by a gunshot wound to the chest.

In denying bail, Murphy said she was not satisfied that defense attorney F. David Walker IV’s proposal that Carr live with his mother in Hampden and be under house arrest while on bail would “protect the public safety.” The judge said she would revisit the issue of bail if Walker submitted a plan that detailed how and by whom Carr would be supervised and if “a very high cash bail” was posted.

The confrontation in which Surles was shot was between two rival groups that called themselves the “The Bloods” and the “The Skaters,” Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case, told Murphy on Friday. Carr allegedly belonged to the former and the defendant to the latter, the prosecutor said.

In answer to a question from the judge about whether there was gang activity in Bangor, Benson said the two groups did not meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s definition of a gang.

“There was an ongoing dispute between these two groups, whether you call them a gang or a pseudo gang,” the prosecutor said.

Walker countered that there was no evidence that Carr was a member of a gang.

“My client is looking to avoid this group,” the Bangor lawyer said, referring to the people Carr allegedly was with on Jan. 27.

Since Carr’s arrest, there have been at least two related confrontations between the same two groups of teens and young adults, according to Bangor police.

About two months after Surles died, three male juveniles were arrested and charged with carrying concealed weapons after a confrontation on Center Street, according to a previously published report. The three, who were not identified by Bangor police due to their ages, said the incident was connected to Surles’ death.

The March 18 incident took place the day after a similar one at the Penobscot Judicial Center on the day of Carr’s arraignment. Both altercations were between the friends of the slain man and the man accused of killing him, according to Bangor police.

Those friends of the defendant and the victim were not in court Friday. Members of Surles’ family and Carr’s mother did attend but declined to be interviewed by reporters.

Carr has been held at the Penobscot County Jail, where he will remain, without bail since his arrest Jan. 29.

In addition to murder, Carr also was indicted in February by the Penobscot County grand jury on a charge of adequate provocation manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty to both charges in March.

Adequate provocation manslaughter is “intentionally or knowingly [causing] the death of another human being under circumstances that do not constitute murder because the person causes the death while under the influence of extreme anger or extreme fear brought about by adequate provocation,” the manslaughter statute states.

Under the statute, extreme anger or extreme fear brought on by adequate provocation is a mitigating circumstance reducing murder to manslaughter. It would be up to a judge or jury to determine whether the circumstances under which Surles was shot meet that standard.

Walker, who recently replaced defense attorney Stephen Smith of Bangor, said after the hearing that Carr was defending himself when the shooting occurred. The reasons for the change in attorneys were not available Friday.

His client, Walker said, wants to be released on bail and wants to live with his mother even if it is under strict conditions such as electronic monitoring and house arrest. Carr, his attorney said, has no criminal record, not even as a juvenile, and was cooperative with police.

Bangor police Lt. Tim Reid said after the hearing that he agreed with Benson’s assessment that it is in the interest of public safety that Carr not be released on bail.

If convicted of murder, Carr faces 25 years to life in prison. If convicted on the manslaughter charge, he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

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