ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Sullivan man convicted earlier this month of furnishing oxycodone to a man who died the next day will appeal his conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, according to the man’s attorney.
Bruce W. Merchant, 46, of Sullivan was convicted in a bench trial Aug. 3 of unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs to another Sullivan man, Charles Robinson, on Sept. 29, 2010. That night, Robinson’s wife Rebecca said she saw her husband crush and snort a blue pill. Some time after 10 p.m., she helped Robinson to bed. He was dead the next morning.
The case involved “significant testimony” about Robinson’s death, but Hancock County Superior Court Justice Ann Murray noted in her decision that “the state has not charged the defendant with causing the death of Charles Robinson. The charges relate only to the defendant trafficking or furnishing scheduled drugs.”
Merchant was sentenced Wednesday to two years imprisonment and a $400 fine, according to his attorney, Robert Napolitano of Portland. Merchant is free on $5,000 bail pending the appeal at the Law Court.
Merchant had also been charged with the more serious crime of trafficking in scheduled drugs, and two other furnishing charges. Murray found Merchant not guilty of those charges.
Napolitano said the appeal hinges on several questions regarding whether evidence obtained in interviews with police the day of Robinson’s death were obtained legally. It was during those interviews that Merchant confessed to giving Charles Robinson the oxycodone, and admitted to taking the drug with Robinson.
The attorney had attempted to suppress those interviews before the trial, claiming that his client had not been sufficiently apprised of his Miranda rights, and that the confession was involuntary.
Murray ruled that Merchant had voluntarily waived his Miranda rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present while he was questioned by law enforcement. Merchant had mentioned speaking with his lawyer several times in the interview, Murray said, but had not specifically stated his desire to end the interview.
“A defendant does not necessarily invoke his right to counsel each time he says the word ‘attorney’ during an interview with the police,” Murray wrote.
In an interview Thursday, Napolitano said Merchant’s Miranda rights were not sufficiently explained.
“They should have told him not only does he have a right to a lawyer, but that he had an option to exercise that right immediately,” he said. “There are certain things [the police] have to do, and I don’t think they did.”
Napolitano will take his appeal to the Law Court, which he hopes will overturn Murray’s decision to allow the tapes into evidence.
“Judge Murray gave us a very fair trial, I don’t deny that,” he said. “But the Law Court may have a different opinion.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.