Jury picked for trial of inmate charged in fellow prisoner’s death

Posted March 08, 2013, at 5:03 p.m.
Franklin A. Higgins
Miller Pearsall | BDN
Franklin A. Higgins
Lloyd Millett, left, sitting with his lawyer, Leonard Sharon, on July 1, 1997.
Lloyd Millett, left, sitting with his lawyer, Leonard Sharon, on July 1, 1997.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A jury of seven men and six women was selected Friday for the trial of a 50-year-old Maine State Prison inmate accused in connection with a fellow prisoner’s death nearly two years ago.

The 12-member jury with three alternates was selected from a pool of 125 Knox County residents. Jury selection took about three hours, with eight men and seven women ultimately chosen.

The jury will hear the case against Franklin A. Higgins. Higgins is charged with the aggravated attempted murder of Lloyd Millett, who died after a prison assault in 2011.

The trial is scheduled to begin Monday, March 18, in Knox County Superior Court.

Higgins was initially indicted on a murder charge in October 2011 in connection with Millett’s death.

The attorney general’s office presented the case to another grand jury in April 2012, and a revised indictment was issued, charging Higgins with aggravated attempted murder, replacing the original murder count.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is prosecuting the case, said in court last year that the revised indictment had been sought because an autopsy showed there may have been an unspecified contributing cause of Millett’s death.

The 51-year-old Millett died June 7, 2011, at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor after being assaulted May 24 at the prison, according to state police at the time of the time of the incident. The state alleges that Higgins used a pipe clamp to beat Millett.

In paperwork filed in court, the defense is claiming that evidence provided by the state indicates that Millett was extorting funds from other inmates.

In particular, the defense alleges that Millett threatened to use force or used force against Higgins.

Millett, a Rumford native, was serving a life sentence for killing Terrie Lizotte, 39, of Canton and Rachelle Anne Williams, 33, of Gorham, N.H. The women were killed during a weekend in early November 1995 while he was a farmhand in Turner. According to Bangor Daily News archives, Williams’ body was found Nov. 6 in a field near the Ramada Inn in Lewiston, where she was attending a business meeting. She was last seen alive in a hotel lounge but disappeared after she left to go to a restroom. Williams’ raped and strangled body was found the next day.

Millett met his other victim, Lizotte, at a Turner nightclub on Nov. 3. He took her home and killed her, according to the BDN’s archives. Lizotte’s body was found by Millett’s ex-girlfriend, who recently had moved out of his home but returned to retrieve her belongings.

Millett had a lengthy criminal record before the murders, including a 1991 rape conviction for which he was sentenced to eight years in prison with four years suspended.

Higgins is serving a 45-year prison sentence for the 1999 killing of Katherine Poor inside her Kenduskeag home. A Penobscot County jury convicted Higgins in January 2001 of Poor’s murder.

Poor was stabbed multiple times in her Route 15 apartment just outside Kenduskeag Village on Feb. 27, 1999. Higgins, who lived in Corinth at the time, was arrested two weeks later. Police said he confessed to the crime, and DNA from a cigarette also led to his arrest.

The scene of Millett’s death was the wood shop at the maximum-security prison in Warren.

In a civil lawsuit filed last month by former Maine State Prison Deputy Warden James O’Farrell, O’Farrell said he had voiced his concerns to the warden and corrections commissioner about lack of staffing, particularly in the wood shop. O’Farrell stated in his lawsuit that Millett was attacked and killed by other inmates who beat the victim with a large, threaded metal rod in the wood shop. He said only three officers were in the wood shop. In the lawsuit, O’Farrell said he spoke to prison Warden Patricia Barnhart after the killing and said that this was specifically what he was concerned would happen.

Higgins is represented by attorney Philip Cohen of Waldoboro and Jeremy Pratt of Camden.

The trial, with Justice Joyce Wheeler presiding, is expected to take one week.

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