BANGOR, Maine — Two murderers, convicted nearly 30 years apart in separate cases, have asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to allow one to have a post-conviction review and the other to be retried.
Richard A. McEachern Jr., 56, of Brewer is serving a life sentence for the Nov. 2, 1978, murder of George E. Fredericks, 24, of Holden. McEachern is seeking a review of his conviction.
Daniel P. Roberts, 45, of Sabattus is serving a 55-year sentence for the Aug. 15, 2005, slaying of his ex-girlfriend and mother of their then 2-year-old daughter. He is seeking a new trial.
Both men are incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren, according to the prisoner search page on the Department of Corrections website. Attorneys for McEachern and Roberts made their arguments before the high court Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center citing different reasons.
Logan Perkins, the Bangor attorney handling McEachern’s appeal, argued that recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court should allow a Maine judge to consider McEachern’s seventh post-conviction review request. She said that “fundamental fairness” was at issue because McEachern did not have the same rights in 1980 that defendants convicted for murder in 2014 do.
Rosemary Curran Scapicchio of Boston, who is handling Roberts’ appeal, argued that her client’s right to a fair and public trial was violated by procedural decisions made by Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler.
McEachern was convicted in March 1980 by the Penobscot County jury. Superior Court Justice Ian MacInnes sentenced McEachern, then 22, to life in prison — “99 percent for the protection of society.”
Fredericks was “struck by a hail of bullets” fired through the rear window at an apartment at the Wee Home Motel on Route 1A while he was sitting in a chair watching television, according to Bangor Daily News archives. He died of a .22-caliber bullet wound to his left temple en route to a Bangor hospital.
The shooting stemmed from a feud between the two men over drugs, money and McEachern’s ex-wife, the archives said.
McEachern, who was being held without bail, made headlines prior to the trial when he escaped from the custody of Penobscot County Sheriff’s deputies while at a dental appointment in February 1979, according to the archives. He was rearrested the next day on Interstate 95 southbound near the Carmel-Winterport exit.
McEachern claims that in 1980 when then Assistant Attorney General Pasquale “Pat” Perrino Jr., now in private practice in Augusta, offered McEachern 40 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea, his trial attorney, George Singal, advised him to go to trial rather than take the deal.
Singal, who practiced in Bangor for many years, went on to become a federal judge in Portland. He is semi-retired but still handles cases.
In his handwritten supplemental brief filed with the state supreme court, McEachern said that he did not accept the deal because of his “confused understanding of what constituted murder and manslaughter.”
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber told justices that no federal or state court in the nation has held that the cases Perkins cited should be applied retroactively. He said that McEachern’s judgment of conviction became final on Sept. 24, 1981, after the state supreme court upheld his conviction.
Roberts shot to death Melissa Mendoza, 29, of California in his garage, according to previously published reports. Roberts claimed he acted in self-defense. Former Deputy Attorney General William Stokes, who prosecuted the case, told jurors that Roberts made false accusations about the couple’s daughter to get Mendoza to his home, then waited in the garage with the lights off. Roberts shot the woman as she walked through the door, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Leonard Sharon of Auburn said that Mendoza arrived holding a gun. She also threatened Roberts, the defense claimed.
On Wednesday, Scapicchio told justices that the trial judge should not have allowed the individual questioning of jurors in chambers out of public view; should not have limited spectators’ comings and goings from the courtroom to breaks in the trial; and should have made sure the Androscoggin County Courthouse was open after its normal 5 p.m. closing time so that Roberts’ family was able to hear the verdict.
Macomber said that the questioning of jurors in chambers was standard procedure in 2007, and the decision to limit when people could leave and enter the courtroom was made after spectators were disruptive. The verdict was read at 4:58 p.m., and the defendant decided not to wait for his family and friends to arrive before the verdict was read, he told justices.
There is no timetable under which the justices must issue their decisions.