Brooks man serving 35 years in wife's death moves to vacate guilty plea

Littlefield alleges legal counsel was 'ineffective'
By Tanya Mitchell | Jun 21, 2013
Source: File image Michael Littlefield

Belfast — A Brooks man serving 35 years for the shooting death of his wife in June 2010 has asked the state to vacate his guilty plea on grounds that his court-appointed attorney did not properly advise him of his options before he pleaded guilty to murder in the fall of 2011.

A post conviction review hearing regarding the case of 50-year-old Michael Littlefield was held at Waldo County Superior Court Tuesday, June 18. Littlefield pleaded guilty to the charge of intentional and knowing murder in connection with the shooting death of his wife, 49-year-old Debbie Littlefield, at their home in Brooks June 25, 2010. According to previously published reports, the couple were arguing over a muffler Littlefield had purchased for his vehicle.

In his petition for post-conviction review, which court records show he originally filed in Sept. 2011, a month before Littlefield entered his guilty plea, Littlefield stated Hartley failed to assist him in several ways in the months leading up to his guilty plea.

“[C]ounsel was ineffective in plea negotiations by his failure to pursue a manslaughter plea based upon the petitioner's 'voluntary intoxication' at the time of the killing of his wife,” stated the motion, which was amended by Littlefield's new court-appointed attorney, William Pagnano, in February of this year.

Pagnano further state on behalf of his client that Littlefield's guilty plea was “not voluntary and knowing under the circumstance in that counsel failed to pursue and advise the petitioner re[garding] 'voluntary intoxication' as a defense to 'knowing and intentional murder' thus inducing the petitioner to give up a right to a trial and contest the allegations or seek a plea to a lesser charge, to the prejudice of the petitioner.”

“Petitioner, through his counsel, respectfully request the Court to conduct a hearing, vacate the plea and sentencing, release him from incarceration and for any other relief justice requires,” concluded Pagnano.

Court records state witnesses who testified at Tuesday's hearing included Littlefield, his former court-appointed attorney, Richard Hartley, and Littlefield's two adult children, Zach Littlefield and Amanda Gillis, and Donald Nickerson, a neighbor who told police Littlefield came to his home on the night of the shooting and admitted to shooting his wife.

Zach Littlefield, according to court records, intended to testify about his observations relating to how much alcohol his father consumed on the day of the shooting, while Gillis intended to offer similar testimony in addition to addressing her experiences while sitting in on discussions between her father and Hartley regarding “plea offer issues.” Nickerson, according to court documents, planned to tell the court of his own observations regarding Littlefield's sobriety on the night of Debbie Littlefield's death, while Hartley was scheduled to testify on his own behalf regarding Littlefield's allegations.

As of Friday, June 21, court records do not indicate Justice Robert Murray has rendered a decision with regard to Littlefield's hearing.

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Tanya Mitchell
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Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.


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