PORTLAND, Maine — A former police detective denied on Thursday that officers “brutalized” and coerced a man who helped identify Anthony Sanborn as a suspect in the 1989 killing of a Maine teenager.
James Daniels denied that he or other officers had assaulted David Schwarz during the third day of the hearing on Sanborn’s bid to overturn his 1992 conviction.
Schwarz will testify that Portland police “coerced,” “threatened” and “brutalized” him during “multiple, multiple” interviews, defense attorney Amy Fairfield wrote in a court filing.
Shortly after the murder of 16-year-old Jessica Briggs, detectives repeatedly interviewed Schwarz, who was then a minor living on the streets and in the Maine Youth Center around that time.
On the night of the killing, Schwarz had been sleeping on a bench near the wharf where Briggs was eviscerated and stabbed to death. He was not a witness to the crime, but provided police with a number of sketches of the crime scene and helped them identify several initial suspects, including Sanborn, in interviews.
Under questioning by Fairfield, Daniels, who retired from the department in 1998, flatly denied Thursday that he or other detectives coerced Schwarz during interviews at the Youth Center and the Portland Police Department. He also said that Schwarz was not suspected of Briggs’ murder.
Fairfield sent the court a list of more than 60 potential witnesses. It is uncertain when Schwarz will testify, but he would be the second witness to accuse Portland police of foul play in the case.
In the spring, a woman who originally testified that she’d seen Sanborn kill Briggs recanted, saying that police and prosecutors coached and coerced her testimony. Hope Cady was 13 years old at the time of the killing and told a shocked courtroom in April that she had been pressured into giving false testimony at the trial.
Cady’s recantation has since been called into question by state prosecutors. In a court filing, they cited police reports in which Cady said that Fairfield and a private investigator were harassing her before she took the stand. Fairfield has denied this.
Daniels, his fellow former detective Daniel Young and former prosecutor Pamela Ames denied Cady’s accusations in an affidavit filed in the spring. Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, who worked with Ames on Sanborn’s trial, did likewise during testimony Tuesday.
Fairfield’s questioning of the detective plodded along Thursday, with frequent breaks for Daniels to read his old notes and interview transcripts. He said repeatedly that he was having trouble remembering details from the nearly 30-year-old murder investigation.
Daniels is the third witness to be called in the proceeding, which was scheduled to last 12 days, and has not yet been questioned by state prosecutors.