PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday unanimously upheld the murder convictions and life sentences imposed on a Biddeford man in the slaying of two brothers.
Rory Holland, 58, is serving two life sentences for shooting Gage Greene, 19, and Derek Greene, 21, to death on June 20, 2009, outside Holland’s home.
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 three and a half hours after listening to testimony for six and a half days.
The trial was moved to Penobscot County from York County due to pretrial publicity.
The state supreme court heard oral arguments in December at the Cumberland County Courthouse on Holland’s appeal of his convictions and sentences.
“The [lower] court’s finding that Holland chose and executed his victims is sufficient for his crimes to be considered among the most serious ways
in which the crime might be committed,” Justice Donald Alexander wrote in a 17-page opinion for the court rejecting arguments that Superior Court Justice Roland Cole erred in sentencing Holland. “The court did not misapply law.”
Defense attorney Amanda Doherty of Portland argued before justices last month that Cole, who presided over the trial, incorrectly denied several motions shortly before the trial began. One of those motions would have allowed testimony about the character of the victims.
The justices upheld the rule that says when a self-defense defense is put forward, as it was in Holland’s case, evidence of the victim’s reputation and/or prior bad acts may not be admitted unless the defendant was aware of them. Maine is one of only two states that has such a rule, according to Doherty.
Another motion made before trial and appealed 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, Doherty argued in her brief.
“The events of June 30, 2009, were nine years after the events leading
to [that] trial,” Alexander wrote in Thursday’s decision. “Except for Holland, no one involved in the 2009 incident had any connection to individuals involved in the 2000 incident. Further, there is no evidence in the record that indicates that the victims vandalized Holland’s property or used racial epithets in reference to him. The court properly excluded this evidence as too remote and unrelated to the events of June 30, 2009.”
Doherty said Thursday that she was not surprised by the supreme court’s decision but was disappointed in the opinion.
“The text of the decision did not address some of the most aggressive arguments,” she said in a telephone interview.
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.
“We’re pleased with the decision,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview. “Very quickly the Law Court rejected all of his arguments, so Mr. Holland will spend the rest of his life in prison, which is where he should be.”