PORTLAND – Two siblings convicted in an Old Orchard Beach murder disguised as a home invasion asked for new, separate trials in arguments before Maine’s highest court Thursday.

Darlene George and her brother, Jeffrey Williams, were tried together and convicted of murdering and conspiring to murder George’s husband, Winston George, in the couple’s home. Darlene George, 46, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Williams, 48, of New York, received a life sentence.

On June 20, 2008, 44-year-old Winston George was strangled and suffocated with a plastic bag, his body left in the basement with a rum bottle stuck in his throat. According to the prosecution, Darlene George was angry about her husband’s affair and worried about losing their properties in Old Orchard Beach, Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago if he divorced her.

Darlene George had reported that she and her then-13-year-old son had been victims of a home invasion. She said men with nylon stockings over their head tied them up in a bedroom and killed her husband when he returned home.

Prosecutors ultimately charged Darlene George, Williams and Rennie Cassimy, a self-described “gigolo” and Darlene George’s longtime lover, building their case with bus station surveillance videos, bank records, phone records and interviews with several people who had seen Williams and Cassimy in Old Orchard Beach.

In a plea bargain, Cassimy was sentenced to eight years in prison, and will likely be deported when he gets out.

The siblings make some common arguments in separate appeals to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Each argues that separate trials were warranted, that there was not enough evidence for the jury to return guilty verdicts and that mistakes were made concerning evidence linked to Cassimy, the prosecution’s star witness.

Stuart Tisdale, Darlene George’s lawyer, also argued that it was a mistake for the trial judge to allow her grand jury testimony at the trial.

He maintains that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that her testimony was voluntary. He said authorities considered her a suspect and subpoenaed her. He described her grand jury testimony as compelled and self-incriminating.

“She was deceived. She was asked questions that she had no idea where the prosecution was going with them. And they rolled them into a scenario of guilt that she contests,” Tisdale said following oral arguments before the supreme court Thursday. “This circumstantial scenario stitched together by the prosecution is false. She seeks a new trial to vindicate herself.”

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber noted that at the time of her grand jury testimony Darlene George was not in custody, so Miranda warnings would not have been required. He also said that she had access to a lawyer.

Joel Vincent, the lawyer representing Williams, focused on his client’s most important issue: grand jury testimony that was supposed to be excluded in his trial.

Some of that information, such as Darlene George’s description of the assailant, was used against him when he was cross-examined.

Vincent said that while the jury was told to disregard some of that evidence, that’s difficult to do as a practical matter.

“I rang the bell, but pretend you didn’t hear it,” he said. “It’s very difficult for juries in that situation to hear the evidence, particularly when the state weaves it into other information.”

Macomber noted that the trial judge specifically told the jury that evidence was admissible only against Darlene George. He also said she didn’t say anything at the time about her brother being the murderer.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]

 


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