A Cumberland County jury will decide whether John D. Williams intentionally killed Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole on April 25, 2018.
Opening arguments in the Williams trial are scheduled to begin Monday morning and the trial is expected to take two weeks.
The question of intention could be the difference between murder and manslaughter.
A murder conviction carries a sentence of between 25 years and life in prison, while a manslaughter conviction has no minimum sentence and a maximum term of 30 years.
Defense attorney Verne Paradie — who is representing Williams, now 30, alongside Patrick Nickerson — said he plans to argue his client was addicted to drugs and not thinking clearly the night he allegedly shot Cole. That although he may have shot the sheriff’s deputy in an impulsive attempt to avoid jail, he didn’t mean to kill Cole.
“[Williams] is a completely different person than a year ago,” Paradie said Monday before jury selection. “He obviously has regret and sympathy and remorse for what happened. It’s not our defense that he didn’t pull the trigger.
“There is really no good result for anyone,” he continued. “But this should be a manslaughter case and not a murder case. … Mr. Williams was not acting rational that night, and he did not intend to kill Cpl. Cole.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, the lead prosecutor in the case, has said she cannot comment on the case.
The death of Cole, who was the first Maine law enforcement officer fatally shot in the line of duty in nearly 30 years, and ensuing four-day manhunt for Williams garnered intense media coverage.
In a March hearing over whether to suppress Williams’ apparent confession to police, prosecutors played a video of detectives’ interview of Williams at the time of his capture. In that video, Williams reportedly told police he shot at Cole after the sheriff’s deputy showed up while he was trying to get into his stepmother’s house.
“I didn’t want to get arrested,” he told a detective in the video. “Grabbed my pistol and pointed it at him. Just made that choice.”
Williams then went on the run. Police say he took Cole’s marked cruiser from the alleged site of the shooting at the Norridgewock home to a Cumberland Farms convenience store on Route 2, where he met a friend and allegedly stole that friend’s car at gunpoint.
Police later allegedly found Williams hiding out in a small cabin in the Fairfield woods near the Norridgewock border on April 28, 2018, after a four-day manhunt.
Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen ruled that all but about seven minutes of the video of Williams’ 96-minute interview with detectives would be admissible at trial after defense attorneys argued police used physical violence to coerce the apparent confession.
Williams has pleaded not guilty to murder.