June 26, 2019
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Connecticut prosecutor alerted Mills in 2016 to concerns about Maine medical examiner

Courtesy of Boston University's School of Medicine
Courtesy of Boston University's School of Medicine
Dr. Mark Flomenbaum

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Connecticut prosecutor warned Gov. Janet Mills when she served as attorney general in 2016 that Maine’s chief medical examiner, serving as an outside witness, had given testimony that a judge in that state deemed not credible in a child manslaughter trial.

The document, verified by the Maine attorney general’s office on Thursday, shed new light on how Mills’ office became aware of that testimony, which came as part of Dr. Mark Flomenbaum’s outside employment as a consultant on out-of-state cases while working as medical examiner under Mills when the Democrat served as attorney general.

It hasn’t affected Maine cases yet. Last year, the state’s high court threw out appeals of two murder convictions based in part on lower-court decisions not to allow defense teams to question Flomenbaum on his Connecticut testimony. Its release, however, comes after a Flomenbaum reversal led a judge to declare a February mistrial in a Maine murder case.

Flomenbaum was appointed to his office by former Gov. Paul LePage in 2014 after a history including both praise and scorn. As a deputy medical examiner in New York City during the Sept. 11 attacks, he helped lead a massive body identification effort, but he was fired in 2007 as Massachusetts’ chief medical examiner after a body went missing.

He has worked as a consultant, a practice that isn’t uncommon in his field. Flomenbaum’s website says he is available for consultation and education services and expert testimony in forensic pathology. In his Maine job, he is often a witness in homicide cases on causes of death, and his office investigates a tenth of state deaths and performs about 300 autopsies per year.

In the case that prompted Patricia Froehlich, a now-retired state’s attorney in eastern Connecticut, to write her 2016 letter to Mills, Flomenbaum testified as a defense witness in the May 2016 trial of Carroll Bumgarner-Ramos. He was later convicted of manslaughter, sexual assault and other charges in connection with the beating death of a 3-year-old girl and received a 30-year sentence, according to the Norwich Bulletin.

The newspaper reported that an autopsy found the girl died from “repeated jabs to her abdomen” crushing her intestines against her spine. Flomenbaum argued the girl died of natural causes, and the Bulletin said he cited dead tissue in her small intestine as emblematic of “a circulation problem” and named dog bites as the probable cause of contusions on her body.

In a letter dated June 9, 2016, Froehlich alerted Mills to the judge’s finding about Flomenbaum’s testimony, saying it was “incumbent upon me” to share information the state “may choose to disclose in homicide cases” because it related to the medical examiner’s credibility.

The governor’s office told the Portland Press Herald last month that as attorney general, Mills was “not aware” of Flomenbaum’s outside employment, though Froehlich’s letter was addressed to her and an August 2016 motion from her office in a Maine case said Mills allowed Flomenbaum to testify as an expert witness in out-of-state cases.

On Thursday, Mills spokesman Scott Ogden said the governor was aware of his Connecticut testimony and his availability as a consultant in other states, but not of “the existence and extent of his business entity.” Ogden said Mills “does not recall” seeing the letter from Froehlich and the office often received large volumes of letters that Mills frequently didn’t see.

Marc Malon, a spokesman for Attorney General Aaron Frey, a Democrat who took over for Mills in January, said Froehlich’s letter to Mills was given to the office’s Criminal Division, which prosecutes homicides. He said the office was aware of Flomenbaum’s testimony in May 2016. Flomenbaum’s office was named one of the best in the U.S. by a national group in 2018.

Flomenbaum’s Connecticut testimony and his firing in Massachusetts subsequently became issues in at least three Maine murder cases in which defense attorneys wanted to cross-examine him.

In August 2016, a judge granted two motions from the attorney general’s office precluding Matthew Davis’ legal team from questioning Flomenbaum on his troubles in Connecticut and Massachusetts, saying the “not credible” determination didn’t impeach his “personal character for truth or veracity.”

Last March, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the convictions of Keith Coleman and Abdirahman Haji-Hassan, making similar findings. Before that, Malon said the state was sending copies of the Connecticut testimony to defense teams before Flomenbaum was called as a witness. Since those high court decision, he said it doesn’t as a practice but would if asked.

Coleman received three life sentences for the 2014 killing his girlfriend and her 10- and 8-year-old children in Garland. Haji-Hassan received 39 years for shooting a man in Portland the same year. Davis was sentenced to life in prison after killing an Oakfield couple in 2013.

Last month, a lower-court judge declared a mistrial in the case of Noah Gaston, who is accused of killing his wife in 2016, after opening arguments because Flomenbaum changed his opinion on the trajectory of the shotgun pellets that killed Alicia Gaston.

 



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