Judge denies bid to remove AG's office from murder case

Disqualification not 'the only appropriate remedy' for state's conduct
By Ethan Andrews | Apr 13, 2018

Belfast — A Waldo County judge on Thursday denied a motion by Sharon Carrillo's attorneys to remove state prosecutors from the case for alleged conflicts of interest.

Sharon Carrillo and her husband Julio Carrillo are charged with depraved indifference murder for the beating death of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy. The girl was found dead at the couple's Stockton Springs home in February. The Carrillos told police that they had beaten her for months before her death. Kennedy was Sharon Carrillo's daughter.

Justice Robert Murray returned a seven-page decision denying motions from Sharon Carrillo's attorneys to disqualify the two lead prosecutors, and possibly the entire Attorney General's Office, from the case.

Murray previously barred the state from using records from a private boarding school in New York state that Sharon Carrillo attended and a Walmart Supercenter where she might have worked. Assistant Attorneys General Leane Zainea and Donald Macomber obtained the records using subpoenas that were successfully challenged by the defense.

On Thursday, Murray heard arguments from the defense team on a motion to disqualify the state prosecutors. Later that day, he returned a decision denying the motion on grounds that his previous decision had accomplished enough.

Christopher MacLean, lead attorney for Sharon Carrillo, said Thursday that state prosecutors and police could have gained an advantage from seeing Sharon Carrillo's confidential records, even if the records themselves could not be used in the case.

He raised further concern that affidavits submitted by Zainea and Macomber in response to Murray's ruling on the school records, made no reference to having been taken under oath. The two prosecutors told Murray they were sworn statements.

Murray, in his decision, took the prosecutors at their words. Additionally, he saw less cause for concern from the ill-gotten subpoenas. The judge referred to affidavits from prosecutors and police noting that most either had not reviewed the records or had only "quickly skimmed" them.

Murray said Maine Law Court offered no close precedent for this, but other states did. He referred to a 1998 Texas Supreme Court civil case that laid out reasons for possible disqualification and the 2003 criminal trial of Martha Stewart, in which Stewart was denied in her bid to have an assistant U.S. prosecutor who had viewed privileged documents in violation of a deal between the prosecution and defense barred from cross examination.

"The defendant contends that disqualification is the only appropriate remedy in response to the State's conduct at issue," Murray wrote. "This court declines to accept that view of the proper remedy."

Murray acknowledged that Carrillo's attorneys hoped to block the state from using "extrajudicial" subpoenas in future cases, but he said he is confident that Zainea and Macomber will do it correctly next time and that remedies exist in the unlikely event that they don't.

MacLean did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Macomber said Friday that the Attorney General's Office is not commenting specifically on the decision. He referred to his comments after the hearing on Thursday. At that time, Macomber attacked the defense team for trying to make the case about prosecutors rather than about the death of Marissa Kennedy.

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