The Superior Court judge who found an East Millinocket man guilty of murdering 16-year-old Joyce McLain nearly 40 years ago will decide Friday whether to impose the 55-year sentence recommended by the prosecution or one closer to the mandatory minimum sought by defense attorneys.
Justice Ann Murray in February found Philip Scott Fournier, 57, guilty of murder in the death of 16-year-old McLain on Aug. 8, 1980, behind the athletic fields of Schenck High School following a jury-waived trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center. The punishment for murder in Maine is 25 years to life in prison.
In addition to the attorneys on both sides, Murray also will hear from McLain’s family, friends, and East Millinocket residents about the local impact of the teen’s death and their 40-year wait for justice.
Members of Fournier’s family also are expected to speak. Fournier may or may not address the judge.
Murray is unlikely to ignore the recommendations of attorneys and impose the life sentence that some of the victim’s family members may request.
There seven conditions under which a judge may send a defendant to prison for life: premeditation, murder accompanied by torture, sexual abuse or other extreme cruelty, murder committed by an inmate in jail or prison, multiple victims, murder of a hostage, a previous murder conviction or or the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer. None of those apply in the McLain case.
On Thursday, Murray refused to delay Fournier’s sentencing while he got new lawyers. The judge found after a brief hearing that appointing new counsel would delay the sentencing for months rather than weeks. The reasons Fournier sought to have the attorneys who handled his trial replaced were not discussed.
He most likely will be appointed new counsel after the sentencing for an expected appeal of his conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Such appeals are standard after murder convictions.
In convicting Fournier, Murray found that his 1981 confessions to a minister, his parents and police were confirmed by his alleged 1989 statement, “I killed her,” to a co-worker who asked what he knew about the McLain slaying. Fournier recanted his 1981 confessions but did not take the stand at his trial to rebut Bangor High School janitor John DeRoche’s testimony about the 1989 confession.
McLain’s partially clothed body was discovered early on the morning of Aug. 10, 1980. The back of her skull was caved in.
Heavy rains overnight washed away evidence, according to trial testimony. No fingerprints, fibers or DNA evidence linked Fournier to McLain’s body.
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