A Portland man’s murder trial that was scheduled to begin Tuesday was postponed after lawyers in the case were unable to seat a jury late last week.

The trial of Abdirahman Haji-Hassan in the 2014 shooting death of Richard Lobor will be rescheduled to a date that lawyers will determine next week in a conference with the judge.

Prosecutors and Haji-Hassan’s lawyers struggled all day Friday at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland to find enough suitable jurors from a starting pool of about 125, but by early evening too many had been disqualified to seat the requisite 12 people with extras as alternates.

Some of the qualifying questions posed to jurors dealt with issues of race. Lobor, 23, came to the United States with his family as Christian refugees from war-torn Sudan, an African nation that is predominantly Muslim. Haji-Hassan is a native of Somalia, another predominantly Muslim nation in Africa.

The jury questionnaire includes questions about whether the potential juror or a family member or friend had been arrested for a crime that involved alcohol or illegal drugs, or if they have opinions about the criminal justice system that would make it difficult for them to be impartial.

The questionnaire also asks potential jurors whether the fact that both the defendant and the victim are racial minorities of African descent would affect their ability to be impartial.

Haji-Hassan, 25, is accused of shooting Lobor in an apartment at 214 Brighton Ave. on Nov. 21, 2014, when Lobor stepped between Haji-Hassan and another man to break up a dispute. Haji-Hassan shot Lobor once in the leg and once in the head, according to a Portland police affidavit filed with the court.

Witnesses who were in the apartment at the time of the shooting had been expected to be called to testify at the trial, which could last as long as two weeks.

One witness, Michael Deblois, lived in the apartment where Lobor was shot. He is diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia and he had smoked crack cocaine before the dispute. Justice Thomas Warren deemed Deblois mentally competent to testify after a pretrial hearing Thursday in which Deblois answered some questions by the attorneys while under oath.


Haji-Hassan’s lawyers had planned to portray another witness, Gang Deng Majok, as an alternative suspect. Majok was in the apartment at the time of the shooting and has subsequently been charged with murder in a 2015 shooting in a recording studio in Portland’s Old Port.

Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office, would not comment on the jury selection process.

One of Haji-Hassan’s attorneys, Clifford Strike, said he had been prepared to make his opening statement for the trial Tuesday and was disappointed by the delay.

“Not only is it frustrating for the defense, it is frustrating for our client because he has to wait more time for his day in court,” Strike said Tuesday morning.

Another of Haji-Hassan’s attorneys, Molly Butler Bailey, questioned Deblois during last week’s hearing regarding a statement he gave to police about the shooting in 2014, and a reference to a woman and “her little invisible friends.” Deblois said the memory could have been from the night before the shooting, or may have dated back to an episode in Colorado in 1992.

“No one’s talked about it, and I haven’t talked about it, but it hasn’t appeared to go away,” Deblois said, referring to the 1992 incident at which he suggested the shooting was foretold. “I heard something about this. I would be involved in a shooting later on in life, and I didn’t know if I would live or die.”

Deblois said he could not recall whether he was taking his prescription medication for schizophrenia in 2014, but said he is taking it now.


Deblois knew the men in his apartment only by their nicknames, “Fresh,” “Dreads,” “New York” and “Jordan.” He allowed them to use his apartment in the Princeton Village complex for parties and gave them rides in exchange for drinks, food and crack cocaine, according to police. Police subsequently identified “Fresh” as Lobor, “Jordan” as Haji-Hassan, “Dreads” as 29-year-old Mohamed Ashkir and “New York” as Majok.

Majok, 31, of Portland, is charged with murder in the May 25, 2015, shooting death of 19-year-old Treyjon Arsenault and the wounding of 21-year-old Mohamed Ali of Portland in Da Block Studios at 371 Fore St. in Portland. He and another defendant in that case, Johnny Ouch, 21, of Westbrook, are scheduled for trial starting Sept. 12.

Deblois told police on the night of Lobor’s killing that he entered the living room while Haji-Hassan and Ashkir were arguing in a foreign language and that Haji-Hassan pointed a silver-colored .357-caliber revolver at Ashkir, according to an affidavit by Portland police Detective Maryann Bailey.

” ‘Jordan’ was moving the revolver up and down and counting. He was telling ‘Dreads’ to leave the apartment,” Bailey wrote. “‘Fresh’ moved in between ‘Dreads’ and ‘Jordan’ to mediate the situation.”

Deblois said Thursday that he heard three shots, but saw only two of them. Police have said Deblois told them he saw Haji-Hassan fire one shot into the floor, another to Lobor’s leg, but not the fatal shot to Lobor’s head.

Police in Minnesota arrested Haji-Hassan in Minneapolis on Dec. 19, 2014, and he has been held since then. He has pleaded not guilty to willful and intentional murder, which is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.


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