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State v. Garrett
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	1998 ME 7
Docket:	And-96-642
Argued:	October 9, 1997
Decided:	January 5, 1998

Panel:WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, CLIFFORD, RUDMAN, and LIPEZ, JJ.





STATE OF MAINE v. THOMAS GARRETT

ROBERTS, J.

	[¶1]  Thomas Garrett appeals from the judgment entered in the
Superior Court (Androscoggin County, Delahanty, J.) following his conviction
of murder (Class A) in violation of 17-A M.R.S.A. § 201(1)(A) (1983).  On
appeal, Garrett contends, inter alia, that the evidence is insufficient to
support his murder conviction and that the court erred in several of its
evidentiary rulings.  We vacate the judgment.  
	[¶2]  Garrett's conviction arose from a deadly altercation between
himself and his friend Robert Riley in the Auburn Mall parking lot.  Garrett
contends that Riley's death was an accident.  He acknowledges that they had
been arguing in the parking lot.  He maintains, however, that he was walking
away from the argument when Riley suddenly came up behind him.  He
asserts that as he was turning around to confront Riley, he accidentally
stabbed him in the neck with a kitchen knife concealed in a cereal box. 
Numerous eyewitnesses, however, contradicted his account of the incident. 
They testified that during the incident the two men were at all times face-
to-face, and none of the witnesses recalled seeing a cereal box in Garrett's
hand.  
	[¶3]  Garrett's first contention on appeal is that the evidence was
insufficient to support his conviction.  In examining whether the evidence is
sufficient to support a jury verdict, we accord great deference to the
findings of a properly instructed jury acting on competent evidence without
a suggestion of misconduct.  State v. Spooner, 666 A.2d 863, 865 (Me.
1995).  A verdict will be upheld if, based on the evidence viewed in the light
most favorable to the State, a jury rationally could have found beyond a
reasonable doubt the elements of the offense charged.  State v. Barry, 495
A.2d 825, 826 (Me. 1985).  At the trial, friends of both Garrett and Riley
testified that the friendship between the two men had become strained
because of Riley's affair with Garrett's ex-girlfriend Carrie.  The jury heard
testimony that Garrett had threatened Riley's life shortly before he fatally
stabbed him.  Moreover, although he claimed that he accidentally stabbed
Riley, his account of the incident was contradicted by numerous
eyewitnesses.  In sum, there was ample evidence of record to support the
jury's finding.  
	[¶4]  Garrett also contends that the court erred in several of its
evidentiary rulings.  Throughout the trial, the State attempted to prove that
Garrett intentionally and knowingly killed Riley because he was jealous of
Riley's sexual relationship with Carrie.  To counter the State's motive
theory, Garrett attempted to introduce evidence about Carrie's sexual
relationships with two of his other friends.  Garrett argued that this
evidence was relevant because his knowledge of the relationships did not
affect his friendships with the two men.  Therefore, the evidence bolstered
his assertions that the relationship between Carrie and Riley did not upset
him and that Riley's death was an accident.  The court sustained the State's
objection and excluded evidence about Carrie's relationship with any man
other than Riley or Garrett.  
	[¶5]  Garrett contends that the exclusion of this evidence denied him
the ability to rebut the State's theory that he killed Riley because of jealousy. 
We agree.  "Although the trial court should exclude evidence offered by a
defendant if the evidence is irrelevant and has broad discretion to exclude
evidence if its introduction would result in undue delay, waste of time or
jury confusion, a defendant is accorded wide latitude to present all evidence
relevant to his defense."  State v. Dean, 589 A.2d 929, 931 (Me. 1991).  The
State asserts that this evidence is irrelevant because Garrett was not upset
about Carrie's affair with Riley, but was upset that they had failed to tell him
about their relationship.  This assertion, however, is contrary to the State's
argument at trial.  At the trial, the State insinuated that Riley's and Carrie's
relationship and Garrett's desire to reunite with Carrie were possible
motives for the stabbing.  Exclusion of evidence that Carrie had engaged in
sexual relationships with two of his other friends and that Garrett had
known of these relationships denied Garrett the ability to contradict the
State's theory on motive.  Moreover, we cannot conclude that the error did
not affect the jury's verdict.  See State v. Harrigan, 662 A.2d 196, 198 (Me.
1995).  Because we conclude that Garrett's conviction must be set aside, we
need not address Garrett's other contentions.  
	The entry is:
				Judgment vacated.  Remanded for
				further proceedings consistent
				with the opinion herein.

Attorneys for State: Andrew Ketterer, Attorney General Sarah Roberts Walton, Asst. Atty. Gen.,(orally) 6 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333-0006 Attorney for defendant: William Maselli, Esq., (orally) 98 Court Street Auburn, ME 04210