BANGOR, Maine — The murder trial of a local woman will go forward next month after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday refused to hear an appeal over the competency of Roxanne Jeskey before there is a verdict in the case.
Earlier this month, Superior Court Justice Ann Murray found Jeskey competent to stand trial. She also ordered that the defendant be committed to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta “for psychiatric observation, evaluation and ongoing assessment of competency pending trial.”
Jeskey’s attorneys, Joseph Baldacci and David Bate, both of Bangor, appealed the decision. The Maine attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, filed a motion to dismiss Friday. It was granted by the court Wednesday, according to Assistant Attorney Donald Macomber, who handles appellate work for the attorney general.
Bate said in an email Wednesday afternoon that he and Baldacci “are in the process of preparing her defense.”
Efforts Thursday to reach Assistant Attorney General Leann Zainea, who is prosecuting the case, were unsuccessful. It is the practice of the attorney general’s office not to comment on pending cases.
Jeskey could enter a new plea of not guilty by reason of disease or mental defect and ask a jury to decide whether she was capable of understanding her actions at the time of her husband’s death.
The prosecution and the defense also could work out a plea agreement in which Jeskey might plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.
Jeskey has pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder in the death of her husband, Richard Jeskey, 53, in their Ohio Street apartment. His naked and bloody body was found June 13, 2011. He was beaten and strangled, according to autopsy results.
To rule Jeskey is competent, Murray had to conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant understands the nature of the charges, comprehends her own condition in relation to those charges and the consequences of a conviction, and she is able to assist in her own defense.
Murray, who is to preside at Jeskey’s trial, issued her decision May 7 after a four-day competency hearing in April. Four expert witnesses — two for the prosecution and two for the defense — gave conflicting opinions concerning whether Jeskey could assist her attorneys at trial. All agreed that Jeskey’s memory and cognitive skills have been impaired by the removal of a brain tumor in 2004.
The judge said that she based her ruling not only on the experts’ opinions but on her own observations of the defendant over the course of the hearing. Murray wrote that Jeskey “appeared to be paying attention throughout the proceedings and she did not appear to be distracted.”
“Jeskey interacted with defense counsel, and sometimes her interactions were followed by a request for a break,” the judge said. “When she appeared in distress she turned to her attorneys. Ms. Jeskey made eye contact with the court frequently and appropriately during the multi-day hearing.”
If convicted of murder, Jeskey faces between 25 years and life in prison.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.