PORTLAND –  Evidence that Derek and Gage Greene had violent tendencies and were affiliated with gangs should have been allowed at the double-murder trial of their killer, Rory Holland, a lawyer for the defendant argued before Maine’s highest court Tuesday.

Holland, 57, who claimed he acted in self-defense, is serving two life sentences for shooting the Greene brothers in 2009.

He is appealing his conviction and sentence to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. His lawyers are making seven arguments concerning evidence allowed at the trial and alleged errors by the court.

As is its practice, the court gave no date for delivering a ruling.

Holland shot the brothers in the early morning of June 30, 2009, outside his home on South Street in Biddeford. Holland had had a confrontation with Derek Greene the previous month that led to Greene’s arrest on an assault charge and a prohibition on any contact with Holland.

On the night of the shooting, the Greenes — Derek was 21 and Gage was 19 — and several other young men were walking down South Street as Holland was standing outside. Witnesses said Gage Greene shoved Holland, who pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot Greene in the chest. Holland shot Derek Greene in the chest and abdomen as he ran toward them. The jury rejected Holland’s claim of self-defense.

Tuesday’s oral arguments focused on what type of evidence should have been allowed at trial and whether a criminal statute book found in Holland’s home should have been permitted as evidence.

Amanda Doherty, one of Holland’s lawyers, argued that the trial judge should have allowed evidence that the Greenes and their affiliates were part of a gang called Ride or Die. She said they made a number of posts on social media sites that indicated they had guns, weren’t afraid to use them and were making threats.

Doherty argued that additional evidence that showed Holland believed the Greenes had violent tendencies should have been allowed under a Maine rule of evidence. She also argued that the Maine rule doesn’t go far enough, and that the state should adopt, as have 45 other states, a federal rule that allows evidence of a victim’s character in criminal cases even when a defendant doesn’t have specific knowledge of it.

Justice Joseph Jabar interjected as Doherty explained how Maine’s failure to adopt the federal rule made it difficult to enter evidence without having Holland himself testify.

“Isn’t the real problem here that you want to raise the self-defense issue without your client taking the stand? And that’s a very difficult thing to do, as a practical matter,” Jabar said.

Holland, a two-time mayoral candidate, was well-known around Biddeford. He had been subjected to racist vandalism and intimidation, had a reputation for provoking conflict and was known to give legal advice in the courthouse.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said the defense strategy was to put the victims on trial.

“The court clearly understood they shouldn’t be changing Maine law to make it so that the victims not only have to pay with their lives but also have to go through a trial of their character. The only person that was on trial here was Rory Holland, and the jury found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Macomber said after the proceeding.

Macomber also argued that Holland had benefited from the same state evidence rule that Doherty had argued was insufficient — he noted that the jury was not allowed to hear evidence that Holland was a felon, that he was not supposed to possess a firearm and that he had been convicted in Kansas of trying to kill his daughter.

The justices also questioned the lawyers about a 2002-2003 criminal statute book found in Holland’s home that had a tab placed in the section on how state law applies to a person’s state of mind while committing a crime.

Doherty argued that the book could have prejudiced the jury when there was no information to indicate Holland had been using it for research around the time of the shooting, or that it was in the part of the house where he had been around that time. She noted that the book was the only evidence the jury asked to see and that it reached a verdict soon after.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at [email protected]