LEWISTON — A judge has postponed the June trial of an Auburn man facing a murder charge from a Walmart parking lot shooting last summer, possibly until next year, his attorney said Monday.

Gage Dalphonse of Auburn, left, listens to the proceedings with his attorney, James Howaniec, background, during his bail hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn in January. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The trial of Gage Dalphonse, 22, had been scheduled to start June 8 in the July 27, 2019, fatal shooting of Jean Fournier, 41, of Turner.

But the lead attorney for Dalphonse said his pretrial motion to have his client’s trial moved out of Androscoggin County has been put on hold due to a standing order of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that has severely restricted state court business because of the risk posed by COVID-19.

Lewiston lawyer James Howaniec said Dalphonse’s case was removed from the June trial list and will be delayed until fall, at the earliest, and possibly won’t go to trial until 2021.

According to the most recent standing order by Maine’s highest court, no juries will be assembled in April and May for trials nor to hand up  indictments.

Meanwhile, Howaniec said his client has remained in Androscoggin County Jail since his arrest on July 31. He said the delay raises concerns about his client’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Dalphonse  had sought to have his trial moved out of the Twin Cities, arguing that “widespread adverse publicity in the media and elsewhere in the community” have compromised his ability to receive a fair trial locally.

Also, a citizens’ group organized in Androscoggin County promoting “justice” for Fournier had been circulating bumper stickers promoting “#justiceforjean,” according to the motion filed by defense attorneys Howaniec and Jesse James Ian Archer.

Dalphonse has twice been denied bail following hearings in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.

Police said Dalphonse shot Fournier twice in the back outside Walmart on Mt. Auburn Avenue after they saw each other in the parking lot and had a brief verbal exchange.

The argument apparently ensued after Dalphonse and Fournier’s girlfriend exchanged insults. Fournier then walked over to where Dalphonse had parked his car in the parking lot to confront Dalphonse, according to police.

Some witnesses said Fournier slapped or punched Dalphonse in the mouth before the shooting.

Police said Dalphonse, who’d had a loaded handgun in a holster at the front of his pants leveraged his torso out of the driver’s-side window of his car and, twisting to the left, shot Fournier as he was walking toward the back of Dalphonse’s car.

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