High court upholds murder conviction

Posted June 29, 2010, at 10:53 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:36 a.m.
Joseph Dumas looks at the gallery during opening arguments in his murder trial in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Monday.  (BANGOR DAILY BEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT)



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Joseph Dumas looks at the gallery during opening arguments of his murder trial in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Monday, April 27, 2009. Dumas is accused of shooting his good friend 70-year-old Mario &quotSonny" Litterio on the Tar Ridge Road in Prentiss on Nov. 8, 2007 after ingesting cocaine. His trial is expected to last until Thursday. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
Joseph Dumas looks at the gallery during opening arguments in his murder trial in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Monday. (BANGOR DAILY BEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT) CAPTION Joseph Dumas looks at the gallery during opening arguments of his murder trial in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor on Monday, April 27, 2009. Dumas is accused of shooting his good friend 70-year-old Mario "Sonny" Litterio on the Tar Ridge Road in Prentiss on Nov. 8, 2007 after ingesting cocaine. His trial is expected to last until Thursday. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the murder conviction of a Prentiss man for slaying his best friend in November 2007.

Joseph Dumas, 51, is serving a 30-year sentence for shooting Mario “Sonny” Litterio five times in the back and head after bingeing on cocaine. The shooting occurred near a camp on Tar Ridge Road in Prentiss where Dumas was working.

A jury found Dumas guilty of intentional or knowing murder in May 2009. He was sentenced the next August.

Dumas’ attorneys sought a new trial for their client. In oral arguments before the state supreme court last month, Peter Cyr of Portland argued that Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy, who presided at Dumas’ trial, erred in three ways: by denying a motion to suppress evidence seized by police and statements Dumas made to police; by denying a motion for a mistrial based on inadmissible testimony by a psychiatrist; and in giving an incorrect jury instruction regarding when the intent required to be guilty of murder may be formed.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber countered in his brief that the judge’s rulings in the suppression and mistrial motions were correct. He also said that Murphy gave a “curative” instruction to the jury concerning the testimony in question.

In addition, Macomber successfully argued that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court long has held that the prosecution does not have to prove a defendant’s conduct in a murder case was “premeditated” in the sense that it was “planned or deliberated over.”

“We are pleased with the Law Court’s decision,” Macomber said Tuesday. “While nothing will bring Sonny Litterio back, we hope that this victory will bring some small measure of comfort to his family.”

Efforts to reach defense attorney Cyr and co-counsel Richard Hartley of Bangor were unsuccessful.

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