AUGUSTA — An attorney for convicted murderer Justin Pillsbury has filed a motion seeking a new trial, alleging that the prosecutor’s description of Pillsbury as a “green-eyed monster” had racial connotations that prejudiced the jury in his trial last month.

The prosecutor, meanwhile, said he was referring to jealousy, not race, with that comment, and that the issue had been raised and rejected by the court during the trial. Pillsbury was found guilty of stabbing his girlfriend, Jillian T. Jones, to death in Augusta in November 2013.

In a motion filed in Superior Court on Thursday, Stephen Smith said the origins of the term “green-eyed monster” can be traced to the William Shakespeare play “Othello,” in which Othello, a black Moor, kills his wife, Desdemona, following rumors of her infidelity.

In his opening statement in the trial, Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber said Pillsbury’s motive in killing Jones was jealousy and that “a green-eyed monster was uncaged in that apartment.”

Smith alleges that Macomber’s statement prejudiced the jury, and combined with the testimony of a witness he argued should have been inadmissible should result in a new trial.

“In this case, the prosecutor simply could have argued that the evidence would demonstrate that the victim died because of the defendant’s jealousy,” Smith wrote in the motion filed at the Capital Judicial Center Thursday. But the prosecutor, Smith said, went further, using the phrase a “green-eyed monster was uncaged” to describe Pillsbury’s actions in stabbing Jones in a Crosby Street apartment.

“Whether intended or not, the prosecutor’s words appealed to the jurors’ subliminal prejudices and fears,” Smith said.

Macomber said the state denies there were any racial overtones in the “green-eyed monster” comment.

“It was clear to the jury that I was referring to the defendant’s jealousy and not to his race,” Macomber said in an email Thursday. “This issue was already raised by the defense during the trial, and the court rejected the defense motion for mistrial at that time.”

Macomber added that he offered to make clear in his closing statement that he was only referring to the defendant’s jealousy, but the defense and court didn’t allow him to do so.

Pillsbury, 41, was found guilty March 17 of stabbing and killing Jones, 24, during an argument that escalated after Pillsbury took Jones’ cellphone and refused to give it back, according to trial testimony. Jones, a Bingham native, was attending beauty school in Waterville at the time of her death.

During the trial, Macomber said that Pillsbury was jealous and believed Jones was communicating on her cellphone with another man.

“Othello,” Smith wrote, is a tragedy in which the title character, a general in the army of Venice, elopes with Desdemona, the daughter of one of the city-state’s senators. Othello is driven to kill Desdemona by Iago, a trusted friend. Iago desires Desdemona for himself, Smith said, and whispers rumors of her infidelity to Othello.

Smith quoted Iago in the court filing:

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,

Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:

But O, what damned minutes tells he o’er

Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!”

Smith’s argument for a new trial also cited the testimony of witness Brittany York, who said she was in Pillsbury’s apartment in Benton in July 2013 when Pillsbury accused Jones of cheating on him and shoved her into the couch. Smith said that testimony should have been deemed inadmissible because it was inflammatory and prejudicial.


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