A Friendship man serving a 40-year sentence at the Maine State Prison for shooting a 30-year-old woman to death in 2005 has asked a judge to overturn his conviction, arguing his lawyer could have done more to defend him.

On March 3, 2006, Douglas A. Dyer, 35, was convicted of murdering Allison Small of Vinalhaven and attempting to kill her husband, Brandon Small, on Jan. 28, 2005. [Editor’s note: Allison Small, whose maiden name was Booth, was a graduate of Mount View High School in Thorndike.]

Shortly before her death, Small had confessed to her husband that she’d had an affair with Dyer. She decided to meet with Dyer at her place of business, Vinalhaven Transportation, at 61 New County Road in Rockland, one last time to end the relationship. Her husband waited outside in the van while she talked with Dyer inside the building.

The husband would later testify in court that he heard a scream and a gunshot from inside the building and saw his wife come running out of the building without her shoes and toward the van about 15 feet away. He said he saw Dyer emerge from the building with a high-powered rifle and shoot Small. She slumped to the ground. Dyer then shot at the husband, grazing his head, according to testimony in court. Her husband heard a fourth gunshot. Small was found to have died from gunshots. She was wounded in the wrist, back and abdomen.

In court, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson described the shooting as “execution-style.”

Dyer was represented at trial and in one unsuccessful appeal by Attorney Steven Peterson of West Rockport. Dyer argued that the shooting was accidental.

A post-conviction hearing was held Jan. 29 at Knox County Superior Court. Dyer had filed a motion seeking to overturn his conviction, arguing his attorney failed to have the case investigated properly, failed to call expert witnesses, and was ineffective.

The court proceedings got off to a slow start Jan. 29 because Dyer elected not to be transported to the courthouse that morning for the hearing. In addition, Dyer’s new attorney Jeffrey Toothaker, told Justice Mark Horton he was not sure what Dyer’s intentions were, because Dyer had been uncooperative and unwilling to meet with the attorney prior to the hearing.

A video-conference system was set up to allow those at the Knox County Courthouse to communicate with Dyer at the Maine State Prison in Warren for the hearing. Dyer appeared on a TV screen in the courtroom wearing a gray sweatsuit and was able to talk back and forth with members of the courtroom. Toothaker left the courthouse and drove to the Maine State Prison to be with his client.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber represented the state. Peterson appeared as a witness.

When the hearing moved forward, Dyer argued there was insufficient evidence that on the third time he shot Small it was at point-blank range or it was execution-style. His argument was that the description of the shooting influenced the jury to find him guilty and influenced the sentence he received. He argued that the victim had no gun smoke, residue, burns or bullet fragments, meaning it could not have been a point-blank execution shooting.

He argued his attorney should have cross-examined the medical examiner more thoroughly about these issues and investigated the matter further. Dyer also argued there were no shells immediately next to the victim.

Dyer also felt that more should have been made of his being on Zoloft for depression and on a sleeping medication before the shootings and having recently stopped the Zoloft when the incident took place.

“I felt the whole world was ending,” Dyer said. “I felt I had no reason to live.”

He said his state of mind should have been explored as part of the defense in the trial.

Dyer also argued his attorney should have called for an independent autopsy. He added that Peterson should have visited the scene of the shooting to investigate and should have called in a ballistics expert to discuss whether or not the shot could have been point-blank.

He acknowledged there was a ballistics expert who checked the tension on the gun.

“My finger must have been on the trigger for the gun to go off,” Dyer said. However, he said it wasn’t his intention to cause the woman’s death. He said he never aimed the gun.

“It was just coincidence and bad luck that these shots hit people,” Toothaker said, explaining Dyer’s position.

Peterson took the stand as a witness, explaining that he had 34 years of experience as an attorney and had defended in more than 20 homicide cases.

On the issue of point-blank range, Peterson said the jury visited the site of the shooting and saw how small the area was.

Reached by phone Feb. 1, Peterson said Benson had talked about its being point-blank range, but the defense never thought that meant Small fell and Dyer went up and shot her on the ground. Peterson said it was clear Dyer was running after her and she was at best a few feet in front of him. Whether it was 5 feet or 15 feet, Peterson said, someone was likely to hit the target, making it what he would think of as point-blank range.

Dyer argued that while it seemed unimportant to Peterson how close the shooting was, he felt it was a critical issue whether he shot her from 15 feet away or 2 feet away or while standing right over her.

Peterson said there was extensive testimony at the trial about Dyer’s depression. Dyer testified at length about it during the trial, as did his best friend, his parents and a police officer who had found him overdosed in a public place prior to the incident. Dyer had left a suicide note at the time of the overdose that Peterson said was used as evidence in the trial.

Peterson said he had Dyer tested by an expert for mental issues and the tester said in the report that Dyer was exaggerating and had unacknowledged rage. Peterson said it was a tactical decision not to put that expert on the stand.

Peterson said during the hearing he did not call for an independent autopsy. He said he knew the medical examiner in question and knew she would do a competent job. He added that one would have had to have the body exhumed for the independent autopsy.

On Feb. 1, Peterson said he had never seen an independent autopsy brought into the defense in a murder trial in all of his years of experience. He said the Medical Examiner’s Office is just supposed to give objective findings and is easy to work with.

“I don’t know what would be gained here,” he said.

Peterson said he did not answer all of Dyer’s criticisms during the court hearing on advice from Macomber, because answers to many of those issues are in the file from the trial, which the judge will review.

Following the testimony, the judge said he would take the matter under advisement and both sides could expect his decision in the near future.