PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court this month will consider the appeals of three men in unrelated cases for their roles in the deaths of three adults and an infant.
Justices are scheduled to hear back-to-back oral arguments the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 12, from attorneys representing Garrett Cheney, 24, of South Berwick, Nathaneal Nightingale, 34, of Burlington and Nicklas Jones, 20, of Limestone.
Cheney was convicted by a jury July 28, 2011, of manslaughter, aggravated criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants, leaving the scene of an accident and criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants in connection with the Jan. 30, 2010, hit-and-run death of University of Maine student Jordyn Bakley, 20, of Camden. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but seven suspended and four years of probation.
Nightingale was charged with murder in the shooting deaths of a Webster Plantation couple who ran a pawnshop and loan operation out of their trailer, according to court documents. On May 31, 2011, a Penobscot County jury found Nightingale guilty of manslaughter, not murder, in the death of Michael Miller Sr. but found him guilty of intentional or knowing murder for the death of Valerie Miller, both 47, of Webster Plantation. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison on the murder charge and 15 years for manslaughter, with the sentences to be served concurrently.
Jones last year entered a conditional guilty plea to manslaughter in the April 2009 death of his 3-month-old daughter, Jocelyn Jones. He was sentenced in December to 15 years in prison with all but six suspended and four years probation for throwing the child into her crib. The infant died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to court documents.
The girl’s father, who was 17 when the girl died but was dealt with by the court system as an adult, is free on bail pending the outcome of his appeal.
Cheney’s appeal challenged several decisions made by Justice William Anderson during the trial, including his decision to allow testimony to continue after jurors were approached by a man who urged them to convict Cheney and said, “don’t pull a Casey Anthony on us.”
Casey Anthony on July 5, 2011, was found not guilty of murdering her toddler by a jury in Florida. The outrage over that verdict still was being reported by the media when Cheney’s trial began less than two weeks later on July 18, 2011, Timothy Zerillo, the Portland attorney handling Cheney’s appeal, argued in his brief.
Nightingale and Jones’ appeals, filed by their respective attorneys, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor and Matthew Hunter of Presque Isle, concerned the denial of pretrial motions to suppress statements they made to the police. Attorneys for both men argued in their briefs that the neither defendant had been Mirandized — advised of his right against self-incrimination — before confessing to investigators.
In addition to appealing the motion to suppress, Jones appealed a judge’s decision to treat him as an adult rather than as a juvenile.
If their convictions were to be overturned, Cheney and Nightingale’s cases would be sent back to Justice William Anderson, who presided over both men’s trial and sentenced them, for further proceedings at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
If Jones were to win his appeal, it would be sent back to Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou.