AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard appeals Monday in the case of a 23-year-old man sentenced last June to three life terms in prison for killing three people in a rural home in Amity in June 2010.
Attorneys for Thayne Ormsby argued that his conviction should be overturned based on several factors, including that his Miranda rights, such as his entitlement to remain silent and to request an attorney, were violated and that he was denied a change of venue despite prejudicial pretrial publicity.
Sarah LeClaire, who is representing Ormsby with fellow Presque Isle attorney James Dunleavy, presented oral arguments before the court Monday afternoon. Assistant Maine Attorney General Donald Macomber argued on behalf of the state.
Ormsby is serving three life sentences after being convicted on April 13, 2012, in the stabbing deaths of Jeffrey Ryan, 55, Ryan’s son Jesse, 10, and Ryan family friend Jason Dehahn, 30, all of Amity.
The three victims were found dead June 22, 2010, about 27 hours after the killings were committed at the elder Ryan’s home on U.S. Route 1 in Amity, according to police. All three died of multiple stab wounds.
On Monday, LeClaire focused heavily on statements made by Ormsby to police on July 2, 2010, at a police station in Dover, N.H. The defense claims that his Miranda rights were violated and his statements were involuntary.
During a July 2011 court hearing, Maine State Police Detectives Dale Keegan and Adam Stoutamyer testified that Ormsby was repeatedly read his Miranda rights before and during the interview. Keegan said Ormsby professed innocence until confronted with evidence from the crime scene, and then admitted guilt and wrote out a confession for police.
LeClaire argued Monday that Keegan should have stopped the interview at a time during questioning when Ormsby stated that he would have to “plead the Fifth” to some questions.
Despite his statements, Ormsby kept talking and answering questions for police, according to testimony, and never requested he be provided an attorney or that the interview cease.
Justice Warren Silver quizzed LeClaire about this, noting that it appeared that Ormsby went “willingly” with police and was told “again and again” that he was not in custody and that “he did not have to talk to them.”
Macomber argued that police had followed the proper procedures with respect to Miranda rights. He said that Keegan had made sure to check and see if after the fifth amendment statement, Ormsby wanted a lawyer or was just done talking for a minute.
“Ormsby went right on talking,” said Macomber.
LeClaire also argued that the court erred in denying the defense attorneys’ motion for a change of venue for the trial based on pretrial publicity and that the jury should have been allowed to hear the consequences of a not guilty by criminally responsible verdict, but Macomber and the justices did little to touch on those issues.
A decision by the justices could come in 60 to 90 days.
Ormsby entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. Because of the dual pleas, Ormsby was tried in two phases before Justice E. Allen Hunter in Superior Court in Houlton. He was first found guilty of the murders on April 13, 2012, and then criminally responsible for his crimes on April 19, 2012.
Ormsby also was found guilty of arson for burning Jeff Ryan’s truck after he stole it from the murder scene. In addition to the life sentences for the murders, he was ordered to serve 15 years for the arson.