Judge finds Bangor woman competent to stand trial Monday in husband’s death

Posted Dec. 13, 2013, at 4:09 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 13, 2013, at 5:23 p.m.
Roxanne Jeskey sits in court in April during the closing argument of her competency hearing at the Penobscot Judicial Center
Roxanne Jeskey sits in court in April during the closing argument of her competency hearing at the Penobscot Judicial Center Buy Photo
Justice E. Allen Hunter
Justice E. Allen Hunter Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — The jury-waived murder trial of Roxanne Jeskey in connection with the brutal slaying of her husband will begin Monday as scheduled after a Superior Court judge ruled Friday she is able to assist in her defense.

Justice E. Allen Hunter found Jeskey, 50, of Bangor competent to stand trial after a two-day hearing Tuesday and Wednesday in which he heard conflicting testimony from expert witnesses for the prosecution and defense.

Jeskey, 50, of Bangor was charged with 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.

She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Hunter said in his seven-page ruling that he based his decision on the testimony of expert witnesses, recordings of Jeskey’s telephone calls from the Penobscot County Jail to family members, standard forms she filed with jail personnel and her demeanor in court during the hearing.

He also said that the “law has set a very low standard for competency in a criminal law proceeding.”

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is prosecuting the case with her colleague Deb Cashman, said that Jeskey meets the criteria for competency. She knows and understands the charges and the consequences of a conviction and was able to tell her attorneys she opposed the competency hearing, the prosecutor said Wednesday.

Defense attorneys Joseph Baldacci and David Bate, both of Bangor, argued earlier this week that the combination of Jeskey’s short-term memory problems resulting from brain surgery and her chronic heart problems, coupled with her mental health diagnosis, which includes post-traumatic stress disorder because of a sexual abuse as a child, depression and an anxiety disorder, make it impossible for Jeskey to adequately assist them during a trial.

Both defense experts said Wednesday that Jeskey needs to be taking antipsychotic and antidepressant medication in order for her to properly assist her attorneys. Jeskey is on suicide watch at the jail, the experts said.

Hunter said that under Maine law ordering medical care was not his role.

“Ultimately, the court is charged, not with formulating a remedial or therapeutic plan for the defendant in order to promote what might be in her long term best interests but rather with the responsibility of making a legal determination according to a standard that comes to us from a time when we knew far less about the inner working and hidden mechanisms of the human brain than we think we know today,” Hunter concluded.

Zainea declined Friday to comment on the judge’s decision. It is the practice of the attorney general’s office not to comment on cases until they are concluded.

“It is a very thoughtful order that recognizes the significant medical and mental health issues as well as the complex issues concerning brain functioning that have to be considered in this case,” Baldacci said Friday about the ruling.

Jeskey has been held without bail since her arrest 10 days after her husband’s death.

She faces between 25 years and life in prison if convicted of murder. If found not guilty by reason of insanity, she would be committed to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta until the staff deemed her no longer a danger to the community.

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