Statements by suspect in Fla. firefighter’s death may have been affected by heavy drinking, attorney says
BELFAST, Maine — How much alcohol had Daniel Porter consumed when he spoke with police in connection with the death of a Florida firefighter last February and should the statements he made while drinking be admissible in court?
Those were among the questions that defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein focused on Wednesday during the last day of a hearing at Waldo County Superior Court on a motion to suppress evidence obtained during questioning of his client by police. Porter, 25, of Jackson is accused of murdering 31-year-old Jerry Perdomo a year ago in a dispute over money and hiding the body on a woods road in Newburgh. Police have said that the two men worked together to illicitly sell prescription drugs in Maine.
“We were both drinking. I had a shot of Crown Royal and he was drinking shots of Jim Beam,” Gary Porter said during Wednesday’s hearing about his activities with his son on Feb. 28, hours before police arrested Daniel Porter. Over the course of the questioning, Gary Porter told the court that his son had been drinking since 9 a.m. that day, consuming at least a six-pack of beer in addition to the shots of whiskey. Police arrested him late that afternoon.
“Did you make any objections to Daniel drinking?” Silverstein asked.
“No. I think he needed it,” the father replied. “He was broke up. He had a lot of pain.”
Silverstein and Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is prosecuting the case, will now submit written statements to Justice Robert Murray, who is expected to make a ruling on the motion sometime next month. Porter’s trial on a charge of intentional or knowing murder is scheduled to begin on April 22, according to court officials. He is being held without bail at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.
Gary Porter and his brother Charlie Porter both spoke about Daniel Porter’s consumption of alcohol that day. Silverstein said after the hearing concluded for the day on Tuesday that he is concerned that police may have passively allowed his client to drink alcohol while talking to them before Porter was charged and read his Miranda rights, which guarantees an individual the right to remain silent or request an attorney.
“Under Maine law, a statement has to be voluntary,” said Silverstein, implying that the drinking harmed his client’s judgement.
When it was Zainea’s chance to cross-examine Gary Porter, she asked him why he allowed his son to drink alcohol while speaking to police.
“Why not?” Porter responded. “He’s a man, not a boy. He was drinking when he was riding with the officers. They probably knew how much he’d been drinking.”
But Zainea pushed back, asking if the elder Porters had at any time told Maine State Police Detective Brian Strout to leave the Hadley Mill Road home in Jackson. That is the residence where Daniel Porter killed Perdomo, according to the police affidavit filed in connection with the murder arrest, and it is where Strout spoke with Daniel for several hours on Feb. 28. During their conversation, Porter vomited into a trash can and later fell asleep on the table.
“You never asked the officers to leave?” she asked Gary Porter, who replied that he hadn’t.
She also asked both elder Porters if Daniel Porter’s condition was one of obvious intoxication — if he could walk without stumbling and talk without slurring, for example.
“You didn’t observe him stumble and fall?” she asked.
“No. I never have,” Gary Porter responded.