Amy Fairfield, attorney for Anthony Sanborn, reviews a document in court Wednesday with James Daniels, who was a Portland detective who investigated the murder of Jessica Briggs in 1989. In the second day of Sanborn’s post-conviction review, Fairfield highlighted information that Daniels gathered in handwritten notebooks but was not included in typed reports that were turned over to Sanborn’s original defense team. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

In a day of methodical questioning, attorneys for Anthony H. Sanborn Jr., the convicted murderer who is trying to clear his name, worked Wednesday to undermine the credibility of the lead detective who investigated the 1989 homicide of Jessica Briggs.

Sanborn’s attorney, Amy Fairfield, highlighted information that was gathered by retired police detective James Daniels in handwritten notebooks, but was not included in official typed reports that were turned over to Sanborn’s original defense team for his 1992 trial.

Briggs was stabbed to death and her body was found in Portland Harbor on the morning of May 24, 1989. Police believe the grisly killing took place at the end of the Maine State Pier, which was then occupied by a Bath Iron Works dry dock.

Prosecutors alleged that Sanborn, then 16, was angry with Briggs the day before she was killed, had been seen looking for her and showed another person a knife that he had.

On Wednesday, the second day of a post-conviction review hearing in Cumberland County Unified Court that is expected to last 12 days, the questioning focused on a central claim by Sanborn’s defense: that police and prosecutors withheld information that would have helped Sanborn’s case, violating a constitutional principle established in 1963 that police must hand over to criminal defendants all material, including exculpatory information.

DID WITNESS GET IMMUNITY DEAL?

The basis for much of the questioning – how information went from handwritten accounts to formal reports – came from material that Daniels turned over this spring, including his original notebooks, that was contained in two boxes of case files that he had stored at his home since his retirement in 1998.

He said he provided the material after an inquiry from the state Attorney General’s Office.

“They called me and asked me if I had any notes,” Daniels said.

Anthony Sanborn listens to his co-counsel Timothy Zerillo during Wednesday’s proceedings at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. Sanborn is the first person convicted of murder in recent state history to be released on bail because of questions about the legitimacy of his conviction. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

He had initially taken more case material, but quickly returned most of it or had it destroyed, he said. The Sanborn investigation files remained in an upstairs storage room for nearly 20 years.

On Wednesday, the tattered cardboard boxes, stuffed with papers, folders and reports, sat on a stool in the center of the courtroom.

Fairfield first pressed Daniels about Gerard Rossi, who was an adult at the time of the killing, but was also Sanborn’s friend and roommate. He testified at the 1992 trial that Sanborn confessed to killing Briggs.

Among the claims that Fairfield has made in Sanborn’s post-conviction review case is that police and prosecutors offered Rossi a silent immunity deal in exchange for his damning testimony that Sanborn confessed three times to the killing. Daniels denied any such deal in an affidavit submitted to the court in April during Sanborn’s bail hearing.

In court documents, Fairfield alleged that Portland police knew that Rossi preyed on young girls, but chose not to pursue an investigation into him because Rossi had agreed to testify against Sanborn.

At the 1992 trial, the accusations against Rossi were the subject of a motion by the state to limit how much Sanborn’s defense attorneys could ask about Rossi’s history.

The judge at the time allowed limited questioning of Daniels about what evidence the officers had to support allegations that Rossi raped an underage girl. At trial, Daniels said there were accusations, but no evidence to support a charge of sexual assault.

NUDE PHOTOGRAPHS COME TO LIGHT

On Wednesday, Fairfield directed questions to Daniels about seven pornographic Polaroid photos that were found among the documents and files that Daniels had stored in his home.

The photos, which Daniels described in detail at Fairfield’s request, show Rossi and a young girl, nude or partially nude, and engaged in various sexually suggestive poses, including one picture that appeared to depict intercourse. Some of the photos clearly showed Rossi’s face, Daniels testified, while others did not. The photos were not shown to the courtroom, and have been sealed by the judge.

The pictures also were discussed during Tuesday’s court session, when Donald Macomber, the secondary prosecutor in the original trial, also was asked to look at them. Macomber said he recalled during the trial that he saw a single photo that may have been among the seven he was shown this week, but could not be sure, and that Sanborn was believed to have taken the photos. The state said Monday that the photos were not explored by Sanborn’s original attorneys because it would have highlighted his involvement in further criminal activity.

Questioning progressed about what information Daniels gathered from interviews with Hope Cady, the state’s key eyewitness to the murder, and which parts of those notes were then included in formal police reports.

Cady, who was 13 when the murder took place and 16 at the time of the trial, recanted her testimony in April at a bail hearing, saying she was coerced by detectives to implicate Sanborn. Cady also had vision problems that Sanborn’s attorneys contend were not revealed to his original defense team.

INCIDENTS THAT FOLLOWED SLAYING

Sanborn, who spent 27 years in prison, was freed on bail after Cady’s recantation. He is the first person convicted of murder in recent state history to be released on bail because of questions about the legitimacy of his conviction.

The state has argued in the past that in accordance with police practices at the time, handwritten notes were formalized into reports that had to be typed up by secretaries before they were reviewed again by detectives. In the case of first-person witness statements, the documents also had to be re-verified by the witnesses before they were signed and handed over in discovery, the process in which the prosecution and defense exchange information on the witnesses and evidence they will present at trial.

Documents from the boxes of material that Daniels turned over this spring describe how Cady had told him that after the murder, she had been attacked in the street by a red-haired man named Dusty, who stabbed her with a knife.

Daniels documented the injuries, but believed it was an incident isolated from the murder and did not turn over the reports or follow up on the attack Cady reported.

Fairfield also pressed Daniels about a claim that Cady made during trial that one day after the murder, she was in Portland with a friend, Angie Vanderventer, when she was approached on the street by a large, muscular man who asked her to go for a walk. The man ultimately gave her money and drugs, she testified, and the implication was that she would keep quiet about what she saw on the pier.

Cady testified that the muscular man had black hair.

But Vanderventer, in a conversation with Daniels that was recorded in his handwritten notes, said the man had bright-red hair, a beard and a mustache – details that were omitted from the report given to Sanborn’s defense team.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or:

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