PORTLAND — The lawyer for a man who’s serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff’s deputy told skeptical supreme court justices Tuesday that the trial judge made mistakes in permitting jurors to hear the man’s confession and in imposing the maximum sentence.
Defense lawyer Verne Paradie repeated his contention that John Williams was sleep-deprived, experiencing drug withdrawal and fearful after being beaten by police officers when he confessed to the killing of Somerset County Sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole.
And the trial judge didn’t even take a recess to consider Pardie’s arguments before imposing a life sentence, the attorney told justices.
Paradie said the trial judge ignored any potential mitigating factors, including drug rehabilitation, after the shooting.
But Justice Ellen Gorman questioned the notion that the circumstances of the crime didn’t support the maximum punishment in Maine, which has no death penalty.
“He was on a drug-and weapon-fueled rampage. There’s no other word for it. That’s what the judge is required to sentence, his actions at the time of the crime, correct?” the justice said.
Prosecutors say John Williams was angry over his girlfriend’s arrest and wanted to avoid going to jail himself when he shot Cole on April 25, 2018, in Norridgewock. The defense said Williams was sleep-deprived and strung out on cocaine and heroin.
Cole, 61, was trying to arrest Williams on a drug charge. His killing led to a four-day search for Williams. The defense contends Williams was beaten to the point he defecated on himself during the arrest.
Cole was the first law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty in nearly 30 years in Maine.
During the hearing Tuesday, justices questioned Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber whether Williams being roughed up by arresting officers could have affected his later confession to two detectives.
They also questioned Macomber over whether an in-court demonstration of the shooting was necessary.
Macomber said the demonstration of how Cole was shot at close range after falling to the ground was necessary evidence to help jurors decide between convicting Cole of murder or manslaughter.