BELFAST, Maine — A man who pleaded guilty in April 2010 to attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery has failed to persuade a superior court judge that his attorney did not adequately represent him.
Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ruled Jan. 16 that Stanley Ward’s attorney at the time of his guilty pleas advised him of his options and charted a course that likely protected him from a possible life sentence.
Ward pleaded guilty to the charges in April 2010. According to police, Ward, of Belfast, who was 22 at the time, abducted a 72-year-old Belfast woman from her home. Police said Ward knew the woman and had done some work for her.
According to police, Ward went to her house with a knife and duct tape with a plan to get money from her. He pushed her to the floor and held the knife to her throat, demanding money.
The woman gave him all the money she had in the house. He then bound her hands with tape, police said, and dragged her to her car. He drove away with her, but returned, demanding that she write a check for $300.
Ward then took her in the car to a camper trailer on a gravel road off Route 137 about 10 miles west of Belfast. Inside, according to police, Ward cut her throat. The woman later told police he said, “Yeah, you’re dead.”
Ward then left.
After losing consciousness twice, the woman was able to crawl down the gravel road, where she was discovered by someone driving by. Though her injuries were life-threatening, she survived the attack.
According to police, Ward cooperated with police detectives after his arrest, telling them what he had done, including showing where he disposed of the knife in a pond.
In his challenge of ineffective representation, Ward — now represented by another attorney — argued that attorney Jeremy Pratt did not file a motion to suppress evidence, that he failed to conduct an adequate pre-trial investigation, did not correctly advise Ward of what sentence he might face, and did not caution Ward and his mother about statements then made during the sentencing hearing.
According to Ward, he asked for a lawyer while law enforcement officers were interviewing him but was refused. Pratt should have asked the court to block the statements he gave after being refused legal counsel, Ward contended.
In his ruling, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm wrote that in order to establish that he had been ineffectively represented, Ward had to prove there had been serious incompetency, inefficiency or inattention, thresholds he failed to make.
It was not likely that Pratt would have been able to get the victim to cooperate with an investigation, Hjelm wrote. And the strategy of pleading guilty was a sound one, in that it avoided a possible more harsh sentence, he added.
In his recounting of the case in his ruling, the judge also noted that Pratt had urged Ward to rewrite the statement he planned to read at sentencing, since the first draft failed to mention the victim’s suffering.