Maine’s highest court has overturned a Limington man’s murder conviction after he argued that police had illegally searched his property to obtain evidence.
Bruce Akers was sentenced to 38 years in prison last November for murdering his neighbor, Douglas Flint, with whom he had been in a longstanding feud over property boundaries and whom he had accused of stealing a six-pack of alcohol.
In a Tuesday ruling, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed with Akers’ assertion that York County sheriff’s deputies illegally searched his property when looking for Flint after Flint’s family had reported him missing in June 2016.
The deputies entered Akers’ property multiple times in the middle of the night and peered through his camper windows when trying to locate Flint, actions the court said were unreasonable and violated his privacy.
“Because the officers had no warrant and because no exceptions to the warrant requirement apply, the search of Akers’s curtilage was unreasonable,” the court said.
Akers said that police had used statements he had made after he refused to speak to them to obtain a warrant. The deputies then searched Akers’ property and found Flint’s body and the machete Akers had allegedly used to kill him.
Akers asked York County Superior Court Justice Wayne Douglas to suppress any evidence found as a result of that warrant. Douglas denied that request.
In their ruling, Maine Supreme Judicial Court justices said the judge should have granted that request. They vacated Akers’ conviction as a result and ordered a new trial.
It is rare for the state’s high court to overturn murder convictions. Since 2000, the court has overturned two from at least 100 appeals that had been filed, News Center Maine reported, citing the Maine attorney general’s office.