Lawyers for convicted murderer Anthony Sanborn Jr. continued Monday to try to pick apart the prosecution of their client, focusing again on the state’s failure to pursue charges against a friend who ended up as a key witness against Sanborn at his trial 25 years ago.

Sanborn was sentenced to 70 years in prison in 1992 after he was convicted of murder in the grisly stabbing death of 16-year-old Jessica Briggs three years earlier on the Portland waterfront. But Sanborn continued to maintain his innocence, and this year, his attorney Amy Fairfield won bail for him and a review of the investigation and prosecution of Sanborn after an eyewitness recanted her testimony.

So far, the review has primarily dealt with the investigation of Sanborn. Fairfield has argued that it too quickly focused on Sanborn who, along with Briggs, was part of a group of street teens who spent their days and nights roaming downtown Portland.

Fairfield on Monday turned to Sanborn’s trial and put former prosecutor Pamela Ames on the stand. Sanborn has suggested that Ames was eager to win a conviction in the case and cut corners in her prosecution of Sanborn. On Monday, Fairfield continued to press Ames over the prosecution’s apparent willingness to overlook allegations that a roommate of Sanborn’s targeted young girls for sex.

The roommate, Gerard Rossi, provided key testimony against Sanborn, saying that his roommate confessed three times to killing Briggs.

Fairfield said prosecutors and police didn’t pursue the allegations against Rossi because they needed his testimony to convict Sanborn.

Ames, pressed on the matter Monday, said she was aware of the allegations against Rossi, but they were just that, and there wasn’t enough evidence for police to file charges and for prosecutors to pursue a conviction.

“There was no deal given Mr. Rossi,” she said, but no prosecution either.

At times, Fairfield’s pressing of Ames was stymied by the passage of time, with Ames saying she wasn’t sure of some of the events that occurred a quarter-century ago.

Other witnesses at the original trial have recanted their testimony or say they were pressured at the time by police and Ames to help win a conviction of Sanborn.

The review of Sanborn’s conviction began Oct. 9. Sanborn’s lawyers and state prosecutors, who are defending the conviction, are racing to finish up before Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler goes on a long vacation in mid-November.

Wheeler, an active-retired judge, has said that if the presentations are completed before her vacation, she plans to write her opinion in January. Wheeler could set aside the conviction, order a new trial, release Sanborn on time served, resentence him or order his return to prison.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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