A Cumberland County jury of six men and six women found John D. Williams guilty of murder in the April 2018 fatal shooting of Cpl. Eugene Cole of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.
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.
The jurors deliberated less than three hours before handing up their verdict.
“This won’t bring Gene back,” Tom Cole, Eugene Cole’s brother, told reporters outside the courthouse after the verdict. “There are no winners in a case like this, but maybe now we can start to get some closure. Hopefully we’ll start to sleep at night again and maybe it won’t be out there as much, so maybe the wounds can start to heal.”
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who led the prosecution, said her team is “very grateful for the thorough job the jury did in rendering their guilty verdict.”
“They obviously agreed with the state’s view of the case,” she continued. “They weren’t out that long, so we’re thrilled.”
The fact that John Williams shot and killed the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office deputy was not disputed in the seven-day trial. Rather, Williams’ defense team argued that he was so impaired by drugs at the time he couldn’t have formed the intent to kill Cole when he pulled the trigger.
“That was the defense’s only argument and we didn’t buy it,” Marchese told reporters. “We thought his actions around the time of the homicide clearly showed he intended to cause the death of Cpl. Cole.”
If jurors had agreed he didn’t intend to kill, they could have downgraded the charge from murder to 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.
Williams, 30, had pleaded not guilty to murder. Defense attorney Verne Paradie, who represented Williams, told reporters he plans to appeal the verdict.
“I’m obviously disappointed,” Paradie said. “It’s not an entirely surprising verdict. It was a tough case. … [Williams] is obviously disappointed as well.”
Marchese reiterated to reporters that prosecutors will seek a life sentence. She said she expects the sentencing to take place in early September.