PORTLAND – A judge ruled on Friday that a single trial will be held for a murder suspect and his alleged accomplice in the shooting death of 24-year-old Serge Mulongo on Feb. 10.

The lawyer for Moses Okot of Portland argued that his client should get a separate trial because most of the state’s evidence relates to the other defendant in the case, Daudoit Butsitsi.

But during a brief hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court, Justice Robert Crowley said the law calls for a single trial when the sets of facts are essentially identical. Crowley also said the evidence regarding Butsitsi would be heard at Okot’s trial even if they were tried separately.

Butsitsi, 24, is charged with murder and continues to be held in the Cumberland County Jail without bail. He is accused of shooting Mulongo six times at close range as Mulongo left an apartment building at Park Avenue and Weymouth streets.

Okot, 21, allegedly provided the latex gloves that Butsitsi used in the shooting. Police say he also drove the getaway car. He is being held on $150,000 bail. Okot faces a lesser charge called felony murder.

In Maine, murder is punishable by 25 years to life in prison. Felony murder is punishable by a maximum of 30 years.

While Butsitsi and Okot will be defendants in the same trial, the jury must return a separate verdict for each man, so one could be convicted while the other is acquitted.

Peter Cyr, the lawyer representing Okot, filed the motion to have the cases severed. He said the state has produced no evidence to suggest Okot knew that Butsitsi intended to harm anyone.

“It would be unfair to defendant Okot to be tried alongside with defendant Butsitsi because the evidence in this case is clearly weighed against Mr. Butsitsi,” Cyr said during Friday’s hearing.

“There is a substantial and serious risk that the jury is going to have a difficult time disassociating Mr. Okot from Mr. Butsitsi,” he said. “That is our fear.”

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, said Cyr’s argument did not demonstrate a serious risk that the jury would be prejudiced regarding Okot. In fact, Okot might benefit by comparison, from the fact that most of the state’s evidence pertains to Butsitsi, Zainea said. “Just because there is admissible evidence against some defendants and it may be damaging for others, that doesn’t mean the cases should be severed,” Zainea said.

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]