AUGUSTA – With some jurors claiming that their colleagues were biased against the government, a mistrial was declared Thursday in the case of five people who were charged with criminal trespassing in November in an Occupy Augusta protest at the governor’s mansion.

On trial in Kennebec County Superior Court on the misdemeanor charge were Elizabeth Burke, 48, of Union; Kimberly Cormier, 47, of Benton; Patricia Messier, 63, of Wiscasset; Jenny Gray, 54, of Wiscasset; and David Page, 44, of Surry.

After the mistrial was declared shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday, defense attorney Philip Worden said he would have preferred a verdict of not guilty. But the defendants smiled and congratulated themselves and about a dozen supporters, appearing to take the outcome as a victory.

“Obviously, there were a number of people on the jury who understood the defendants’ First Amendment rights and understood our argument that the Blaine House is part of the capital complex and, therefore, a public forum,” said Lynne Williams, the other defense attorney.

Before discharging the deadlocked jury, Justice Nancy Mills said, “You’ve told me three times you’ve failed to reach a decision.”

The jury of seven women and five men had sent a series of notes to the judge during more than six hours of deliberations, which began Wednesday afternoon. One note, signed by eight jurors and read aloud, said they believed that some members of the jury were biased against government so they could not reach a decision.


The jury made a number of requests during its deliberations, most of which were denied. Jurors asked to go to the Blaine House, and asked for a copy of the Constitution — it was unclear whether federal or state — and evidence exhibits, of which there were none.

The judge told them to follow the written instructions she had given them, about the offense of criminal trespass and about the First Amendment.

The jurors asked for the Bill of Rights, but the judge declined to give it to them because it had not been entered as evidence. The jury also wanted to rehear testimony by three officers who either warned or arrested the five defendants. The jurors received transcripts of that testimony.

Mills, speaking to all of the jurors, said they had indicated they could render a fair and impartial verdict when they were selected several weeks ago and as recently as Wednesday, when she had inquired again. She also told them they could decide on verdicts for some defendants while not reaching verdicts on all five.

Before declaring a mistrial, Mills polled the jurors, and each said there was no hope of reaching a verdict in any of the five cases.

The protest on Nov. 27 was held after Occupy Augusta participants who had been camping in Capitol Park since mid-October were told that they would have to get a permit to continue using the park, and that they would have to leave by dusk each day.


A federal judge later ruled that the occupiers needed a permit, so the protesters left the park after a two-month stay.

“They took their protest directly to the governor’s door to let him know how angry they were,” said Worden, one of the defense attorneys. Gov. Paul LePage wasn’t at the home during the protest.

Worden said the defendants exercised their rights to free speech and to redress grievances, and believed they had a right to be there.

Assistant District Attorney James Mitchell Jr., who prosecuted the case, said the protesters defied police orders to leave the Blaine House grounds and lined up to be arrested. They were all released on bail almost immediately.

Mitchell said the decision of whether to prosecute the defendants again will be up to acting District Attorney Alan Kelley. He predicted that it would go to trial again. Justice Mills said the case would go back on the June trial list.

A jury trial for a sixth defendant charged with criminal trespass in the same protest, Gregory Fahy of Hallowell, begins today in Kennebec County Superior Court.


Two other protesters were found guilty of the same offenses. Diane Messer, 59, of Liberty, was convicted by a jury on March 23. She was fined $400. She also testified in the trial of the five co-defendants.

Michael Reynolds, 38, of Lewiston was convicted April 3 after pleading no contest to criminal trespass, and was fined $250.

A ninth person charged with criminal trespass that day, James Freeman, 62, of Verona Island, has a June court date.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at


Comments are no longer available on this story