The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday will hear oral arguments in the appeal of a Massachusetts man serving a 35-year prison sentence for robbing and killing Douglas Morin Jr., 31, of Oakfield in 2016.
Marcus Asante, 24, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, claims he acted in self-defense after an argument broke out over a deal to buy 10 pounds of marijuana from Morin.
Asante is asking the court, which will hear the arguments in Portland, to overturn his convictions and grant him a new trial.
Prosecutors argued at Asante’s trial in November 2018 that he shot Morin nine times, and left him to die of head and neck wounds as he sat in his Lincoln Town Car on PD Road in Sherman.
A year ago, Superior Court Justice Harold Stewart II sentenced Asante to 35 years in prison on the murder charge and 20 years in prison on the robbery charge, with the sentences to be served at the same time.
In his appeal, Asante claims that the judge erred in giving instructions to jurors about self-defense and allowing one of Asante’s fellow inmates to testify that Asante intended “to pretend” he acted in self-defense. In addition, Asante argues that his convictions for murder and robbery violate the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents a defendant from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.
“If the jury believed defendant’s testimony, he should have been acquitted of murder based on self-defense,” Asante’s attorney Rory McNamara said in his brief. “However, the court’s self-defense instruction excused the state from establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the decedent’s use of force — pointing a gun at [the] defendant and pulling the trigger of that gun — did not instigate his own shooting death.”
McNamara also said that by allowing the inmate to testify, the judge let Asante’s trial strategy be introduced and prejudiced the jury against the defendant. Because the robbery and murder were part of the same offense, Asante was “illegally subjected to multiple prosecutions and punishments for the same offense” under the double jeopardy clause, the attorney argues.
Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber disagrees. He said that Stewart’s decisions are supported in Maine law.
“Since the jury found that Asante was guilty of robbery, he was not entitled to use self-defense,” the prosecutor argues in his brief.
Macomber claims that the judge addressed the danger of possibly prejudicing jurors against the defendant by preventing prosecutors from asking the inmate how he learned about Asante’s trial strategy. That prevented the inmate from testifying about any discussions Asante may have had with his attorney, which would have breached the defendant’s attorney-client privilege.
The prosecutor also denies that Asante’s convictions violated the Constitution because “each of those crimes has an element distinct from the other.”
There is no timetable under which the justices must issue a decision.