PORTLAND, Maine — A York County man serving two life sentences for shooting Biddeford brothers Gage Greene, 19, and Derek Greene, 21, to death on June 20, 2009, has appealed his conviction and sentence to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Justices will hear oral arguments Tuesday in the Cumberland County Courthouse in the appeal of Rory Holland, 58, of Biddeford.
Holland was convicted on two counts of murder on Nov. 3, 2010, by a Penobscot County jury. Eight female and four male jurors deliberated nearly 3½ hours after listening to testimony for 6½ days.
The trial was moved to Penobscot County from York County due to pretrial publicity.
Defense attorney Clifford Strike of Portland argued in his brief to the state’s highest court that Superior Court Justice Roland Cole, who presided over the trial and sentenced Holland, incorrectly denied several motions shortly before the trial began. One of those motions would have allowed testimony about the character of the victims.
Another would have allowed statements made during a 2006 civil trial involving Holland, who is black, in which he sued a man who allegedly paraded in front of his home in Ku Klux Klan robes and later verbally and physically assaulted him. If it had been granted, that motion would have put his reaction to threats and violence in context for the jury, Strike argued in his brief.
Although the statements Cole said could not be admitted during the murder trial were made outside a courtroom, Strike said they should have been admitted “merely to show the context of why [Holland] was predisposed to escalate when once again he was threatened and assaulted” as he claimed to have been by the Greene brothers.
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said in his brief that Cole appropriately admitted the evidence in the case and properly denied the defense team’s pretrial motions.
Strike also argued that Cole did not properly weigh Holland’s “well-founded fear of the assailants and his conduct immediately after the shooting” as mitigating factors.
“The sentencing court gave little weight to the fact that all of the evidence presented showed that Gage Greene initiated the confrontation by approaching [Holland], who was on the sidewalk just outside his own home, began a verbal confrontation with [Holland] and escalated the conflict by shoving [him],” the defense attorney said in his brief.
Macomber disagreed. He wrote that Holland’s criminal record, including a prior conviction for a crime involving the use of deadly force against a person, his complete lack of remorse and refusal to accept responsibility for the shootings contributed to the judge’s sentencing decision.
“As for Holland’s actions on the night of the murders after he retreated into his house — Holland did not immediately call 911 to report that he had shot the Greene brothers in self-defense; rather, on more than one occasion he denied having any knowledge regarding the commotion in front of his house,” Macomber wrote. “He also attempted to hide the murder weapon on the roof of his house. Even after the police arrived and attempted to get Holland to come out of the house, he refused for hours.
“Given these circumstances, it would have been an abuse of discretion had the sentencing court found that Holland’s alleged ‘fear of the victims’ and his retreat into his house immediately after the murders did constitute mitigating factors,” the prosecutor concluded.
There is no timetable under which the court must issue its decision.