Maine’s highest court on Tuesday upheld the conviction of John D. Williams and the life sentence he is serving for the April 2018 murder of Somerset County Deputy Sheriff Cpl. Eugene Cole.

John Williams, who was convicted of murder in the slaying of Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole, sits in the Cumberland County Courthouse during his trial. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court also Tuesday upheld the conviction of Kandee Collind, who pleaded guilty to murdering her ex-husband in front of their two children in February 2017, but then attempted to rescind the guilty plea.

Williams shot and killed Cole as the officer was attempting to arrest Williams outside a home in Norridgewock. The shooting led to a prolonged search before Williams was arrested outside a remote cabin where he was hiding.

Williams argued that mistreatment by police during his arrest rendered a later confession inadmissible, and that a re-enactment of the shooting during his trial by a state’s expert witness was prejudicial to the jury. Williams also argued that the trial judge did not properly weigh mitigating factors before sentencing Williams to life in prison.

Cpl. Eugene Cole

But the justices were not persuaded by those arguments, and found that although Williams was mistreated by arresting officers when they found him hiding in a remote cabin in the woods, his interrogation afterward involved different investigators who treated him with kindness and respect.

Prior to trial, a portion of the videotape of Williams’s confession was tossed out, after Williams requested he take a nap before the interrogation continued, a request that police denied. The effect at trial was negligible, the court found, because Williams had already confessed during the first portion of the interview.

Williams’s appeal argued that the trial court should have discarded the entire interview, because police officers who found and arrested him stepped on his hand and punched him in the face multiple times while he was handcuffed. The officers also pulled his head by his hair to take a photo of his face – an image that was later leaked to the media, and showed a shirtless Williams in custody.

“Williams was not asked any questions about the crime during his arrest and transport out of the woods, the interrogation itself was conducted by two detectives who were not present in the woods during the arrest, the arresting officers had no further interaction with Williams after he was handed off to the detectives, and they were not present during the interrogation, which took place at the Waterville Police Department away from the scene of the arrest,” the court wrote. “Further, the interrogating detectives did not threaten, make any promises, or offer any inducements to Williams.”

“Thus, we conclude that the trial court did not err in determining that under the totality of the circumstances, the inappropriate force used during Williams’s arrest did not render involuntary his later confession and other statements to the detectives,” the justices wrote.

Williams also argued that his sentence was predetermined by the trial judge without the benefit of a fair sentencing process that did not give proper weight to Williams’s troubled childhood and history as a drug user. But the court found that the trial judge came to the sentence after earnest evaluation, and that the outcome was not predetermined.

Williams’s attorney, Verne Paradie, said in an interview Tuesday that he plans to ask the law court to reconsider aspects of the appeal because he believes the justices misunderstood key points regarding the re-enactment in the courtroom of how Cole was shot. Court rules permit appellants to make a motion for reconsideration following a law court decision within 14 days if they believe an issue was misapprehended or overlooked in the original decision, but there is no guarantee that the court will take action or hold a hearing in response.

Prior to the trial, Paradie hired a ballistics expert who evaluated the evidence and came to many of the same conclusions as the state’s experts regarding how the shooting unfolded, so Paradie decided for strategic reasons not to call him to the witness stand.

But at trial, Paradie said the state’s re-enactment of the shooting in the courtroom did not agree with the report that the state’s own experts provided. Paradie sought to have his expert testify, in a limited capacity, about why the re-enactment was misleading, but that request was denied at trial, he said.

“The law court said multiple times that the in-court demonstration was consistent with the report, which I’m very confused where that’s coming from,” Paradie said. “In my view, I think the law court made a mistake.”

Kandee Collind appears in court in 2019. Tammy Wells/Journal Tribune

In the second case Tuesday, the court upheld conviction of Collind, who pleaded guilty to murdering her ex-husband, Scott Weyland, in front of their two children in February 2017 after the victim was awarded primary custody of the kids.

Collind later attempted to withdraw that plea after the court accepted it, but before she was sentenced. She also argued that the trial court erred when it did not permit her to pursue a defense of actual innocence because she was experiencing an abnormal condition of the mind, and that the trial court misapplied sentencing principles before arriving at a 32-year sentence.

Scott Weyland

The justice were not swayed by Collind’s arguments, and found that although she expressed a desire to go to trial rather than take a plea as early as 22 days after she entered the guilty plea, the lower court did not make an error in judgement when it found that Collind did not show enough evidence that she was not in a sound state of mind and therefore not responsible for her actions.

The court also found that Collind’s statements before the murder and her actions that day indicate she was aware of her actions and intentions and was therefore culpable for the murder.

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