Juror shortage delays trial of Falmouth man accused of killing his mother

Posted March 13, 2014, at 5:08 p.m.
Last modified March 13, 2014, at 5:25 p.m.
Andrew Leighton
Andrew Leighton

PORTLAND, Maine — The trial for a Falmouth man accused of killing his mother in May 2013 has been pushed back to October because attorneys were unable to select a jury.

Andrew Leighton, 47, had been scheduled for trial the last week of March. He is accused of murder after allegedly shooting and killing his mother, 68-year-old Shirley Leighton, at their Edgewater Drive home.

Leighton pleaded not criminally responsible in the case.

His attorney, Robert LeBrasseur, subsequently told the court that his client heard voices in his head.

Leighton’s father, Thomas Leighton, told police after the shooting that the couple attempted to take their son to the hospital before the shooting, but he refused, Maine State Police Detective Christopher Farley wrote in an affidavit. Farley wrote that Thomas Leighton went for a walk and returned to find Andrew Leighton outside smoking a cigarette, at which point Andrew Leighton said, “I shot her,” before struggling with his father and then chasing him up the street.

Andrew Leighton told detectives at Cumberland County Jail that “he shot his mother in the back of the head when she went to call Spring Harbor [Hospital],” Farley wrote in the affidavit.

Thomas Leighton told detectives that his son has a history of mental illness including bipolar disorder, and that he and his wife had been trying to get their son mental health assistance for years, according to court documents.

Prosecutor Leane Zainea of the Maine attorney general’s office said Thursday that the original jury pool of about 105 people was reduced to fewer than 50 after prospective jurors completed a confidential questionnaire that included questions related to mental health. After an examination to determine the competency of each juror, there were not enough people left to select a jury, she said.

Zainea said the situation “does happen from time to time, given the particular issues raised in the trial,” and added that she does not expect difficulty selecting another jury.

LeBrasseur said Thursday that “people have preconceived notions” of mental illness, and some potential jurors did not feel they could find Leighton not criminally responsible “because they think he’s just going to be let back on the street.”

But LeBrasseur said that should Leighton be found not criminally responsible, he would be committed to the Riverview Psychiatric Center until he could demonstrate that he’s not a danger to himself or others.

 

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