ELLSWORTH, Maine — After just 20 minutes of deliberation, a jury on Wednesday found a Franklin man not guilty of robbery and other crimes following a three-day trial in Hancock County Superior Court.
On Feb. 9, a man broke into a Stonington Manor apartment and beat the woman who lived there in an attempt to steal prescription drugs. The man punched the woman in the face four times before she handed over her medication — fish oil pills and blood pressure medicine. When the man saw the name on the bottle, he realized he had broken into the wrong home and ran away.
The state said that man was Morris G. Young, 26, of Franklin. Young and his alleged accomplice, Catherine Carton, 33, of Sedgwick, were each arrested in March on charges of robbery, burglary, assault, aggravated criminal trespass and theft by unauthorized taking.
During the trial, the state relied heavily on the testimony of another Stonington woman, Jennifer Seile. Seile, an admitted drug addict, told police and the jury that Young and Carton had been staying with her when the robbery took place.
She said that on Feb. 8 the trio had discussed places they might obtain prescription Percocet, including from a woman in Stonington Manor. In testimony Monday, Seile said she tried to dissuade Young and Carton from robbery and promised to buy them pills later if they just stayed home.
The next morning, Seile said she was woken up by Young and Carton arguing. She said Young admitted to breaking into the wrong house and punching the woman in the face. She later provided police with a mask she claimed Young had worn to the robbery, which was later confirmed to contain Young’s DNA.
Young’s attorney, Robert Van Horn, pounced on the credibility of Seile as a witness in his closing arguments.
“The state’s case rests entirely on the testimony of Jen Seile,” he told jurors Wednesday. “The evidence has shown that Jen Seile’s testimony is unreliable.”
Van Horn said Seile made up the evidence because she was upset with Carton for a relationship she had with Seile’s ex boyfriend. He also insinuated that Seile and her boyfriend may have been the true culprits, as Seile had had a fallen out with the intended victim of the robbery.
The attorney pointed to discrepancies between Seiles version of the robbery, as she claimed was recounted to her by Young, and the testimony of the victim and other witnesses. For example, Seile claimed Young returned from the robbery with three prescription pill bottles, when only two bottles were stolen.
Van Horn also provided evidence that before the home invasion, Seile had unsuccessfully tried to convince Young and Carton to break into her father’s Stonington market, which Young and Carton refused.
The attorney didn’t deny that Young’s DNA appeared on the mask, but took issue with the fact that other DNA also was found but never identified.
The strongest piece of evidence casting doubt on Young’s alleged guilt, Van Horn said, was the discrepancy between the description of the assailant given by the victim and a witness, and the description of Young on the morning of the robbery provided by Seile.
The victim and a witness said the attacker was wearing a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, which she said definitely were “not denim.” Seile said Young had been wearing a green sweatshirt and jeans.
“There has got to be reasonable doubt when two witnesses say the attacker wore one thing, and the woman pointing the finger said he wore another,” Van Horn said. “… The reason [Seile] didn’t have any firsthand knowledge of this robbery is because she made it up.”
Though Young was found not guilty of all the charges stemming from the Stonington robbery, he still may return to jail. He faces three charges of violation of his probation. The state alleges, and Young admits, that he has not completed a batterer’s intervention program and he has not paid 21 months worth of supervision fees.
Those conditions of parole were given after a 2009 conviction of domestic-violence assault. Justice Ann Murray, who presided over the robbery trial, will hear the probation revocation hearing at a later date.
After the trial, Young declined comment. His attorney said only that he was happy with the jury’s verdict. Carton will face trial in the Stonington robbery on Nov. 15.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.