PORTLAND, Maine — Attorneys for the prosecution and defense sparred Monday morning about how intoxicated on drugs — if at all — Joel Hayden was on the July 2011 night he is accused of killing his girlfriend and a mutual friend in front of his 7-year-old son in New Gloucester.
Closing arguments in the double murder trial took place Monday morning in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court in Portland, concluding just before noon to cap five days of testimony.
With the completion of the arguments, the case has gone to the jury.
Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills told jurors Monday they are under no time constraints to reach a verdict.
Hayden, 31, is charged with shooting and killing his girlfriend and mother of his four children, Renee Sandora, 27, of New Gloucester, and mutual friend Trevor Mills, 28, of New Bedford, Mass.
Defense attorney Clifford Strike argued before the jury that witnesses brought forward by prosecutors were unreliable, and that Hayden was under the influence of cocaine, oxycodone and hydrocodone on the night of the incident, July 25, 2011. Because of that intoxication, Strike suggested Hayden was not capable of “knowingly or intentionally” causing the deaths of Sandora and Mills, if in fact the jury believed he pulled the trigger — a point Strike said prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
To find Hayden guilty of the two counts of murder, the jury must find that he knew his actions would cause the deaths of the victims. If the jury finds that Hayden caused the deaths of Sandora and Mills, but did so “recklessly or with criminal negligence” as opposed to “knowingly and intentionally,” he would be found guilty of the lesser charges of manslaughter.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese recounted the testimony heard by the jury during the weeklong trial, including that of Hayden and Sandora’s oldest son, now 8, who testified before the court that he saw his father shoot his mother in the driveway that night.
She reminded the jury about the testimony of Hayden’s friends and acquaintances, one of whom said the defendant told her the day before the shooting he had asked her husband to buy him ammunition, said he hoped to catch Sandora cheating on him with Mills and that he was “going to kill the bitch and his boy,” the latter referring to his friend Mills.
Marchese also replayed the 911 call placed by Sandora on the night of the shooting, in which she tells the dispatcher, “My boyfriend just shot me and shot his friend, too. I have four kids,” and then, to somebody else apparently nearby, “What are you going to do? Kill me in front of my kids?”
The assistant attorney general recounted the high-speed car chase in the hours after the shooting, in which Hayden allegedly reached speeds topping 100 mph while being pursued by police in Biddeford, Saco and Dayton before crashing his vehicle — which matched the description of the vehicle Mills owned and that a neighbor saw fleeing 322 Bennett Road in New Gloucester moments after the incident. Marchese reminded jurors that medical personnel testified that the drugs found in his system in the aftermath of the crash had been ingested “recently,” and that his mother testified that he told her he was taking the drugs while evading police pursuit.
“He was high at the hospital, but he got high after the murders,” she told the jury. “He was driving at a high rate of speed down country roads, calling and texting his mother and other people on his phone, and taking drugs. He’s able to do all of that, but he was so high that he couldn’t possibly have committed these murders? Please.”
Hayden himself did not take the witness stand in the case.
Strike discounted the testimony of the woman who testified that Hayden asked her husband to buy ammunition and threatened to kill the victims, pointing out that the woman admitted to heavy cocaine use.
He also pointed out that while Hayden’s son said he saw Mills crashing through the front door of the home before testifying that Hayden continued on to shoot Sandora outside, Maine State Police Trooper Nathaniel Jamo testified that he later saw Mills crawling out through the front door before coming to rest on the porch.
“If that’s what Trooper Jamo saw, [Hayden and Sandora’s son] could not have seen what he said he saw,” Strike told the jury.
Strike had a different take on the high-speed chase as well, pointing out that no evidence of drugs was found in the black Cadillac driven by Hayden that night, suggesting that the drugs found in his system by doctors at the hospital must have been ingested before he took to the roads and, potentially, before the shootings occurred.
“He’s trying to ingest pills at 80 mph down dark country roads, but he’s so neat that he didn’t leave any trace of drug use? That’s ridiculous,” Strike told the jury. “We don’t have any medical timeline that says these drugs had to have been taken at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. They may very well have been taken at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.”
The shootings occurred at approximately 6:45 that night.
Strike, who defended Hayden alongside attorney Sarah Churchill during the trial, acknowledged his client’s long history of drug use and the “rocky” nine-year relationship between Hayden and Sandora, but said there were never any previous allegations of physical violence against his client.