The state’s highest court has upheld the murder conviction of Robert Burton, the man who shot his girlfriend to death in June 2015 in the town of Parkman and then led police on a 68-day manhunt, the longest and costliest in Maine history.

Stephanie Gebo

Burton was convicted in October 2017 of intentional or knowing murder by a jury in Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. He was sentenced to 55 years in the state prison.

In his appeal, Burton asserted that the trial judge, Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen, was wrong in rejecting six questions that Burton sought to have included in the written jury selection questionnaire, and by not giving prospective jurors the option of answering any of the questions with “not sure” as an alternative to “yes” or “no,” according to the decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court dated Tuesday.

Second, Burton contended that the court erred by admitting evidence of two prior burglary convictions to discredit his trial testimony.

“Finding no error, we affirm the judgment,” justices wrote in the decision.

In the early hours of June 5, 2015, Robert Burton entered the home of his former girlfriend, Stephanie Gebo, and shot her three times in the back, killing her.

Gebo, a 37-year-old mother of two, was shot in her own bedroom. She told friends that she was fearful of Burton’s jealous rage. Sleeping with a gun for protection, Gebo shot Burton when he broke into her bedroom window. He seized the gun from her and returned fire, leaving her for dead with three bullets in her back.

The prosecution team painted a picture of Burton as an obsessive, jealous man who suspected his former girlfriend had been cheating on him when he murdered her.

But the defense team throughout the trial attempted to discredit the investigation to cast reasonable doubt for the jury on Burton’s guilt, saying that there were holes in the case and that police had rushed to judgment in charging Burton with murder before all the evidence was collected.

They argued that if Burton had died that day, Gebo would have been on trial.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop told the jury that most of what Burton said on the stand was “pure fiction,” and that Gebo had every right to defend her home from a criminal trespasser.

Over the two days of jury selection, Burton submitted a list of 21 questions he wanted the court to include in a written questionnaire for potential jurors.

Over objections by Burton’s defense team, Justice Mullen declined to include the “not sure” option to the questions along with six specific questions Burton wanted the jury to be asked, which was at issue in his appeal.

The questions were:

• Do you believe that because a police officer has arrested someone for murder it means the person arrested is likely guilty?

• Do you feel or believe Burton looks like he may be guilty of the charge of murder?

• Would you have any difficulty in finding Burton not guilty if you had a reasonable doubt that he was guilty?

• If you have reasonable doubt as to Burton’s guilt, but think he may have probably committed a crime, would you be able to follow the law and find him not guilty?

• Do you believe that too many defendants that stand trial in criminal cases are found not guilty?

• The law allows a person to use deadly force against another person in self defense. Do you have any beliefs or opinions that would prevent you from applying the law of self defense if the court provided such an instruction in the case?

Supreme Court justices concluded that Mullen had told jurors about reasonable doubt and that Mullen’s decisions were correct and in order.

Again over Burton’s objection at trial, the court ruled that if he were to testify, it would admit evidence of convictions for two burglaries and two thefts. Burton testified and the previous convictions were admitted in evidence.

Supreme Court justices determined that all of Mullen’s decisions in the Burton case fell “within the bounds of the court’s discretion” and the original judgment was affirmed.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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