Defense says Roxanne Jeskey not guilty of murder, offer manslaughter as alternative

Posted March 01, 2014, at 4:04 p.m.
Roxanne Jeskey looks towards family members as she is lead into the courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Dec. 16, 2013.
Roxanne Jeskey looks towards family members as she is lead into the courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Dec. 16, 2013.
 Roxanne Jeskey, 50, sits beside attorney David Bate in Penobscot Judicial Center on Jan. 2, 2013.
Linda Coan O'Kresik
Roxanne Jeskey, 50, sits beside attorney David Bate in Penobscot Judicial Center on Jan. 2, 2013.
Justice Allen Hunter presides over the Roxanne Jeskey murder trial on Dec. 16, 2013, at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
Justice Allen Hunter presides over the Roxanne Jeskey murder trial on Dec. 16, 2013, at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

BANGOR, Maine — Defense attorneys for a local woman accused of brutally murdering her husband in the bathroom of the couple’s Union Street apartment 2½ years ago said in written closing arguments that the judge could find Roxanne Jeskey guilty of manslaughter rather than murder.

Jeskey, 50, of Bangor has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity of intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder in the death of her husband, Richard “Rick” Jeskey, 53, of Bangor on June 12, 2011.

Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter asked for written closing arguments from defense attorneys Joseph Baldacci and David Bate, both of Bangor, and Assistant Attorneys General Leanne Zainea and Deb Cashman in January after hearing six days of testimony in December and January at the Penobscot Judicial Center. Jeskey opted for a trial before a judge rather than a jury.

Baldacci and Bate said in their 30-page closing that their client is not guilty of murder by reason of insanity “but we are well aware that by law the court can consider this alternative. Certainly this alternative is far more justifiable in light of all of the evidence produced than a verdict of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder. But the overwhelming weight of the evidence should lead to an acquittal of Ms. Jeskey.”

Juries in Penobscot County have found defendants charged with murder guilty of manslaughter instead. Last year, Peter Robinson, 50, of Bradford was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter in the November 2011 death of David P. Trask, 71, of Hudson.

In 2011 Perley Goodrich Jr., now 49, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of his father, Perley Goodrich Sr., 76, of Newport on Oct. 26, 2009. The jury rejected his insanity defense.

Robinson was sentenced to 14 years in prison with all but seven suspended and four years of probation. Goodrich was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but eight suspended and four years of probation.

It could not be determined over the weekend whether a judge has found a defendant not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter in Penobscot County.

Zainea is expected to address manslaughter as an alternative verdict to murder in her rebuttal, which is expected to be filed later this month. The prosecutor said in her 25-page closing dated Feb. 7 that Jeskey is guilty of murder.

“The defendant during the evening of June 12, 2011, repeatedly and systematically cut, punctured, hit, burned, and strangled Rick,” Zainea said. “From the top of his head to his feet, Rick was covered in abrasions, lacerations, contusions and fractures. The injuries were so widespread that when [former medical examiner] Dr. [Michael] Ferenc examined Rick’s heart it was almost devoid of blood, indicating that Rick lost a significant amount of blood during this vicious and brutal attack.”

The weapons used to inflict those injuries included a plastic baseball bat, a broom handle, a wooden towel bar with protruding screws, a pair of needle nose pliers and a disposable lighter, Zainea said.

The defense also argued that Jeskey was acting in self-defense when she killed her husband.

“The state submits that the defendant can’t have it both ways,” the prosecutor said. “Either she is consciously making choices and acting upon those choices or she isn’t. By its very nature if a person defends oneself from deadly force, they are engaged in goal-directed behavior.”

Experts gave conflicting testimony at Jeskey’s trial about whether she knew right from wrong the night she allegedly beat and strangled her husband. That is the standard the judge must use to determine if she is not guilty by reason of insanity. Under Maine law, whether Jeskey was able to engage in “goal-directed behavior” is a factor the judge must consider.

Prosecution and defense experts testified that Jeskey’s cognitive skills and memory are impaired due to the removal of a brain tumor 10 years ago. She was found competent to stand trial by Hunter and Superior Court Justice Ann Murray, who later recused herself from the case.

There is no timetable under which Hunter must issue his decision, but he has said it would most likely be within a month of the filing of closing arguments and the prosecution’s rebuttal.

Jeskey, who has no prior criminal history, faces between 25 years and life in prison if convicted of murder. A manslaughter conviction carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. 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.

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.

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