VIDEO

Justice questions growth of raspberries on MDI in November in dead deer case

Posted Oct. 26, 2012, at 3:13 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 26, 2012, at 9:09 p.m.
Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander
Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander

BUCKSPORT, Maine — A high school student’s tongue-in-cheek assessment Friday of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court was short and sweet.

“They don’t know much about raspberries,” a female student at Bucksport High School shouted from the back of the gym when asked by moderator David Kee, a retired Bucksport attorney, to weigh in on what they had seen and heard.

The state’s high court convened Friday morning in Bucksport in the justices’ third and final stop on its annual fall road trip. Earlier this week, the court heard cases at high schools in Biddeford and Brunswick.

Raspberries played a more prominent role during oral arguments in the appeal of a Hancock County man’s case that involved the killing of a deer on Mount Desert Island than they did at the defendant’s trial, according to briefs filed in the case.

Stephen Smith of Eastbrook was convicted by a jury on Jan. 30 for hunting or possessing a deer in a closed season. He was sentenced to the mandatory minimum — three days in jail, a $1,000 fine and the loss of his hunting license for a year, according to briefs filed in the case. The sentence has been stayed pending the outcome of his appeal.

Smith’s attorney, William Blaisdell IV of Ellsworth, argued that his client should not have been convicted because Smith shot a nuisance deer Nov. 5, 2010, at the request of his friend Rodney King, an Otter Creek landowner.

“Mr. King testified [at the trial] that he had concerns with the deer in the area and that they were eating him out of house and home, that they were eating his shrubs and raspberries,” Blaisdell told the justices Friday.

Justice Donald Alexander pounced on those raspberries with an observation and a question that went unanswered.

“Unless it’s on your own property, you have to have a game warden confirm that a deer is causing a nuisance before it can been shot,” he said. “For example, you would have to have the game warden confirm that it was eating your client’s raspberries in — what was it, November? They have raspberries on Mount Desert Island growing in November? The climate’s that good out there?”

Toward the end of oral arguments in the case, Justice Ellen Gorman pointed out that if a deer were eating raspberry bushes in November, it might damage them so that fruit would not grow on them the following summer.

William Entwistle, assistant district attorney for Hancock County, told the justices that it did not matter whether the deer was being a nuisance. Killing a deer on Mount Desert Island is prohibited any time of the year. The prosecutor also argued that five days after Smith killed the deer, the defendant called a warden to ask whether the deer being a “nuisance deer” would be a possible defense to a charge of killing a deer out of season.

The court also heard oral arguments in a case that drew no levity from the justices — the appeal of a Bowdoin man who is serving a 47-year sentence for killing a Brunswick teenager in 2002 with the blunt end of a hatchet, then burying her in his mother’s backyard.

The court considered whether Olland Reese, 29, convicted of murder in the death of 16-year-old Cody Green, should have a new trial because new DNA technology has made possible the testing of skin cells found on the duct tape that bound the girl’s wrists together.

Reese’s attorney, Christopher MacLean of Camden, argued that a lower court judge erred by denying his postconviction motion for a new trial. Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber disagreed, arguing that Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren ruled correctly. Macomber also said that the results of a new DNA test would not alter the “mountain of evidence” against Reese presented at his trial.

Justices also heard the appeal of a civil case involving a land dispute in Steuben.

Nicolas Bishop, 17, of Frankfort said he found the court’s work “very interesting.”

“This is the first time I’ve been to something like this,” the junior said in-between arguments. “I was impressed by how much the court people knew about the cases — almost as much as the attorneys did.”

Justices typically review briefs, some evidence and transcripts from trials and other court proceedings before oral arguments are heard.

There is no timetable under which the court must issue its decisions.

Justices will next hear oral arguments in Bangor in November.

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