BELFAST, Maine — Just days before jury selection in Sharon Carrillo’s murder trial was meant to begin, her defense team and state prosecutors spent Monday afternoon at the Waldo Judicial Center grappling over issues critical to the case.
Those include whether Carrillo, 34, is actually competent to stand trial for her role in the February 2018 beating death of her 10-year-old daughter Marissa Kennedy at the Stockton Springs condo where the family was living then. Carrillo’s estranged husband and Marissa Kennedy’s stepfather, Julio Carrillo, 52, was convicted this summer of depraved indifference murder and was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his role in the young girl’s death.
Sharon Carrillo’s defense attorney, Chris MacLean of Camden, asked Justice Robert Murray on Monday to review reports from psychologists and others and then make a determination whether she’s fit to proceed with the trial. Murray did not rule immediately on the matter, and now jury selection is delayed until Wednesday after an anticipated winter storm closed the courts on Tuesday.
“Competence is something that can shift over time,” the defense attorney said. “We want the judge to make that decision as close to the time as possible.”
MacLean said the report had been submitted at the end of November by a state forensic psychologist and would be crucial to any decision about Sharon Carrillo.
“She’s a very, very low, intellectual functioning [person]. That is going to be something we’ll talk about a lot in the trial,” MacLean said of his client. “Ultimately, the judge needs to review the reports.”
Judge Murray on Monday decided not to allow the use of photos in the trial’s opening arguments after Carrillo’s defense team suggested that highly graphic pictures could prejudice a jury.
Previously, Carrillo’s defense attorneys had asked the court to suppress guilty statements their client had made to police shortly after her daughter’s death, but the judge decided they would be allowed. On Monday, Shaw and MacLean asked Murray to allow evidence purportedly showing that Sharon Carrillo was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband.
“The defense feels this evidence is relevant and admissible,” Shaw said. “A big part of the trial may be the extent of the control Julio Carrillo had over Sharon Carrillo.”
But for his part, Macomber characterized the role of domestic violence in the trial as a “side issue.”
“This is the trial of the State of Maine vs. Sharon Carrillo. This isn’t the trial of Julio Carrillo and any actions he may or may not have [taken] against Sharon Carrillo,” the prosecutor said.
Murray declined to make a broad ruling on the issue, but would make decisions during the trial on a case-by-case basis.
Another motion brought forward by the state was whether prosecutors would be able to bring jurors to the crime scene in Stockton Springs, but that was withdrawn before the judge made a decision.
A pool of about 180 potential jurors from Waldo County is expected to convene at the courthouse on Wednesday morning to start the jury-selection process. MacLean expects it will take two days to seat a full 12-person jury with two alternates.
“We need to find a group of jurors who can be fair and impartial,” he said, adding that he believes that is possible, even with such a high-profile and disturbing case. “I think it’s a great process, our jury system. The test is not whether people have heard about the case but whether they can set aside their preconceived notions.”