AUBURN, Maine — Prosecutors in an upcoming trial expect the defense to cast doubt on murder defendant accusations of Buddy Robinson’s guilt by seeking to implicate his sister, Brandi Robinson.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson filed a motion in Androscoggin County Superior Court in an effort to limit or weaken the defense’s tactic of introducing an alternative suspect.
Buddy Robinson’s defense attorney, Edward Dilworth, said the state lacks direct evidence in making its case against the defendant.
“It’s really just a ‘he said/she said,’” Dilworth told the judge.
Benson argued Friday that the defense should have to first establish a foundation in support of Brandi Robinson as an alternative suspect.
“I don’t think they have it,” Benson told Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy.
He said the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in several cases, acting in its capacity as the law court, that the defense would have to show evidence, such as a confession, physical evidence or a scheme or plan to support an alternative-suspect theory.
“I simply say there’s not enough for him to point a finger at Brandi,” Benson said.
Buddy Robinson, 31, of Lewiston was back in court Friday, two weeks before a jury is scheduled to be selected for his trial, which is expected to last roughly three weeks.
Police believe Robinson, who lived upstairs from Christiana Fesmire, 22, on Highland Avenue in Lewiston, beat and drowned her in her downstairs apartment on the morning of July 1, 2011. They think he wrapped her dead body in a blanket, put it in the trunk of a Lexus and drove it to a wooded area and dumped it. Fesmire’s remains have not been recovered. Robinson was indicted in November.
Dilworth said the only way to show the judge he has enough evidence to support his alternative-suspect theory would be to call several witnesses to testify before the trial, which he hadn’t prepared to do Friday.
Kennedy appeared reluctant to hold another hearing before the trial, taking the matter under advisement.
Brandi Robinson apparently had a rocky relationship with Fesmire. She once had a physical fight with her and had been holding thousands of dollars of Fesmire’s money. Dilworth quizzed witnesses during last year’s bail hearing who said Brandi Robinson had a tendency to fabricate stories and was controlling of people, including her brother.
Dilworth on Friday argued several pretrial motions, including one that would not allow at trial any discussion of text messages between Buddy Robinson and Rebecca Cornell de Houx, a woman who had served with him in the Maine Army National Guard. She had testified at a bail hearing last year that he had texted her on the day Fesmire went missing to say he had badly hurt a woman and that she was dead.
Cornell de Houx said Robinson sent him a spate of text messages the night of July 1 when he was staying at a hotel in Augusta. He told her things weren’t going well. He said he had hurt somebody badly, but he didn’t have to worry about her anymore. Asked why not, he said he would never see her again. When Cornell de Houx pressed him, Robinson said, “She’s dead.” When she asked him if he was serious, Robinson took a moment to reply, then said he was joking.
Kennedy said she would rule on that motion at the time of the trial but she was “leaning” in favor of allowing Cornell de Houx to talk about the text messages.
Dilworth also wanted to exclude a photo of Fesmire from being shown to one of the state’s witnesses who, during last year’s bail hearing, identified her as the victim.
“It’s so prejudicial,” Dilworth said. He also said showing the photo was unconstitutional.
Benson argued the photo was not “unfairly” prejudicial and was not unconstitutional.
Kennedy said she would allow the witness to identify Fesmire in the photo.
Dilworth argued a third motion that would exclude cellphone-tower data from the trial, claiming it was an invasion of his client’s privacy and was not legally obtained by prosecutors.
Benson countered that no cellphone user would have an expectation of privacy regarding the towers that were relaying the signal the caller was using to speak to another cellphone user.
Kennedy said she would rule on that motion later.