AUGUSTA, Maine — A Smyrna man sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for gross sexual assault and gun charges in 2008 appealed his conviction to the state’s highest court Thursday, arguing that his attorney was ineffective for failing to object to hearsay testimony from a state social worker at an earlier trial.
Horace W. Salley III, 47, also was convicted of tampering with a witness and assault, a misdemeanor. Salley has a history of domestic violence, including abuse inflicted on four women and two of their children between 1992 and 2006, according to court documents. The witness tampering charge stems from an incident in which he tried to get the victim to change her allegations against him and told her if she did not, he “would come after her and the baby,” court documents stated.
In 2010, Salley’s attorney filed a petition with the trial court for a post-conviction review, arguing that Salley’s trial counsel had been ineffective for not objecting to certain hearsay admitted at the trial and that his appellate counsel had been ineffective for not arguing that the admission of the hearsay was an error. The court denied that petition.
During Thursday’s appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, David Paris, the attorney now representing Salley, argued that testimony from a Maine Department of Health and Human Services caseworker about Salley’s criminal history should never have been introduced into trial. He also argued that Salley’s trial counsel should have objected to such testimony.
“This was such prejudicial hearsay,” Paris told the justices. “With the jury sitting right there, Mr. Salley never testified, and the jury is hearing that he is involved with DHHS and he has this criminal history, and nothing is ever done to correct that.”
District Attorney Todd Collins countered that the case should be upheld. He argued that the only testimony regarding Salley’s criminal history came from the DHHS caseworker in a non-responsive answer to a preliminary question about why the department became involved with Salley’s family and children. Even then, he said, the mention of criminal history was a vague reference to the overall risks to the child posed by Salley.
Collins defended the manner in which Aroostook County Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter, who first handled the case in the lower court, oversaw the case.
“I believe that Mr. Salley received a fair trial,” said Collins.
There is no timetable under which the justices must issue a decision in the appeal.