A Kennebec County jury on Wednesday found an Auburn man not guilty of murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of a father of five in a Walmart parking lot more than two years ago, according to the Maine attorney general’s office.
Police said Gage Dalphonse, 23, leaned out the driver’s side window of his car on July 27, 2019, and shot Jean Fournier, 41, of Turner twice in the back as he was running away from Dalphonse, according to testimony at his six-day trial in Augusta.
Maine juries rarely hand up “not guilty” verdicts in murder and manslaughter trials.
The defense argued that Dalphonse fired his weapon in self-defense after the much larger Fournier punched him in the face during a confrontation over a derogatory name Dalphonse called the woman who was with Fournier. Dalphonse and the woman had worked together previously and had a dispute, according to court documents.
Dalphonse never denied shooting and killing Fournier.
Police were called to the store shortly before 7 p.m. that night and found Fournier lying on his back unconscious. He was later pronounced dead at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, according to a police affidavit.
Dalphonse’s attorney, James Howaniec of Lewiston, said after the verdict was announced that his client was able to hug his parents for the first time in more than two years.
Dalphonse had been held without bail since his arrest the day after the shooting.
“I’ve believed all along that if the jury put emotion aside and applied the law of self-defense, Gage would be acquitted,” he said. “We had a very thoughtful, hard-working jury.
“I am hoping that all involved put their emotions aside and respect the verdicts of the jury,” the attorney continued. “There is a lot of misunderstanding in the public about the actual facts of this case. Fortunately, we were allowed to present our arguments in a fair trial before a jury of Gage’s peers.”
The attorney general’s office did not issue a statement on the verdict.
The trial was moved from Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn to the more modern Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.
Testimony in the trial began Sept. 15 and the jury deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours Wednesday afternoon.
If convicted, Dalphonse would have faced between 25 years and life in prison. He also could have been ordered to repay Fournier’s funeral expenses.
Fournier is survived by his estranged wife Antasha Lamb-Fournier and five children, according to his obituary. At the time of his death, Fournier, a contractor, was working on a nine-unit building that was going to be a boarding house for the homeless.