The former prosecutor who secured a murder conviction of Anthony H. Sanborn Jr. said Tuesday that she had no prior knowledge that a key eyewitness in Sanborn’s trial had vision problems.

Pamela Ames, who was an assistant attorney general in 1992 when Sanborn was tried in the 1989 murder of Jessica Briggs, said she had no idea that Hope Cady, who was 13 at the time of the murder, had difficulty seeing. Ames was being questioned by Sanborn’s attorney, Amy Fairfield, during a hearing to determine whether Sanborn’s conviction will stand.

Ames also offered an explanation for bringing up Cady’s vision briefly during the 1992 trial: Ames noticed that Cady was having difficulty seeing an enlarged aerial photograph in the courtroom. In front of the jury – without knowing what her answer would be – she asked Cady whether she had difficulty seeing.

“So you basically went for broke with your eyewitness,” said Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha, during cross-examination.

“I was blindsided. I was in a hole. I thought I was in a hole,” said Ames, who seemed to acknowledge the damaging implications of a eyewitness who couldn’t see. “Whatever her answer was, I’d have to live with it.”

Cady responded that her vision problems developed after the murder. The issue was never revisited.

Sanborn, who was 16 at the time of the killing, is trying to have the murder conviction dismissed, and has insisted that he did not kill his former girlfriend, who was also 16 when her body was recovered from Portland Harbor.

After 27 years in prison, Sanborn was freed on bail in April after Cady recanted her trial testimony that she saw Sanborn and others corner Briggs on the pier before he stabbed her multiple times.

Sanborn’s attorneys alleged that police zeroed in on him from the start, failed to fully investigate other suspects and coerced witnesses to testify against him. On Tuesday, Ames denied ever threatening or coercing witnesses.

Fairfield also spent the morning quizzing Ames about the discovery process, in which the state is required to turn over its evidence to a defendant’s attorneys so they can prepare for trial.

At the heart of the case is whether police and prosecutors turned over all the documents that would have helped Sanborn in his defense – a requirement in jury trials since 1963. Sanborn’s lawyers argued that police and prosecutors pressured witnesses by threatening jail time.

In one instance, Ames explained how a series of three police reports about teenagers who knew Sanborn or Briggs were converted from first-person statements to summaries because they had not been signed and approved by the witnesses.

There will be no testimony Wednesday. Court will reconvene Thursday morning.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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