PORTLAND, Maine — The lawyer who prosecuted Anthony Sanborn said Thursday that a Portland court rushed to judgment last week in granting bail after a key witness recanted the testimony that was pivotal to convicting him of the 1989 murder of a 16-year-old girl.
Former assistant attorney general Pamela Ames said that she remains “absolutely” convinced that justice was done when Sanborn was sentenced to 70 years in prison for the murder of Jessica Briggs.
Ames said that she intends to provide testimony and evidence that will refute “the false allegations and misinformation” that have been presented to the Cumberland County Superior Court in a push to prove Sanborn’s claim of innocence — setting the stage for a new legal showdown over the fate of a man who has already spent the better part of three decades behind bars.
“It is too bad that the court has not heard facts about the actual prosecution that happened 25 years ago and has made some pre-judgments that are not consistent with the evidence,” Ames said in her first interview since Sanborn’s release last week. “I am looking forward to testifying as to the facts and not all the false allegations and misinformation that [Sanborn’s lawyer] is feeding the court.”
Last Thursday, Hope Cady recanted testimony that was pivotal to convicting Sanborn of the brutal waterfront murder in 1992. Cady, who was 13 at the time of the killing, told a shocked courtroom that, contrary to her earlier testimony, she had not witnessed the murder, was legally blind at the time, and had been intimidated into taking the stand and told what to say by Ames and two Portland police detectives.
Following Cady’s explosive testimony last week, Justice Joyce Wheeler allowed Sanborn to be released on a $25,000 cash or surety bond to his wife’s Westbrook home.
Ames, now a lawyer in private practice in Waterville, adamantly denied the claim that she had threatened Cady, influenced her testimony or told the witness what to say. Former Portland police detectives James Daniels and Daniel Young also denied these charges in affidavits.
“I have reviewed my entire file and gone over all the notes and all the witness statements,” said Ames. “And I have never ever and did not in this case coerce, threaten or make promises to any of the witnesses, including Hope Cady.”
Ames further said that while she knew Cady had trouble seeing in 1992, the key witness had said during the trial that her vision was fine at the time of the murder.
The former prosecutor also lashed out at Sanborn’s lawyer, Amy Fairfield, for being unprofessional and unduly aggressive in trying to get Ames to testify. Fairfield alleged in court filings that Ames had suppressed vital evidence of Cady’s vision problem during Sanborn’s trial.
On Wednesday, Fairfield filed documents asking the court to detain Ames, alleging that she had dodged a private detective’s repeated attempts to serve her with a subpoena.
Ames, however, said that she was clear about her intent to testify to the attorney general’s office and had been alarmed by an unidentified man and strange car showing up at her home.
“I have never, ever in my career been slandered in the way Ms. Fairfield has done,” said Ames. “It is not true. And we have evidence to prove it is not true.”
In an interview late Thursday, Fairfield said that during her more than a decade in practice she’d never had so much trouble serving someone a subpoena. She had not been previously aware that Ames intends to testify and was simply serving her client by filing for the former prosecutor’s civil arrest, Fairfield said.
“We can chalk this up to one big misunderstanding,” said Fairfield. “I’m just thrilled that she is testifying … [and] am really welcoming the opportunity for all of the facts to be finally heard in a court of law.”
The hearing over Sanborn’s request to have the court vacate his indictment and conviction or get a new trial is scheduled to resume on May 24, according to court documents.