A judge’s happenstance meeting with a priest a couple of times at church did not warrant the judge’s removal from a murder trial in which the priest was a witness, the Maine supreme court ruled Tuesday.

The priest got into a fight with a man hours before the man shot a woman 10 times, and the priest testified at the trial.

Philip Clark was convicted and sentenced to 43 years for killing his sister-in-law, Renee Henneberry Clark.

Philip Clark’s attorneys contended Justice William Stokes should have recused himself because he had met the Rev. Anthony Cipolle years before.

“The fact that the presiding judge had met the witness years before on a few Sundays during one summer was insufficient to create even an appearance of bias,” Justice Joseph Jabar wrote in Tuesday’s ruling.

Police were called to quell the fight between Cipolle and Clark hours before Henneberry Clark was shot to death on July 11, 2018, in her apartment in Hampden. Philip Clark lived in the apartment next door.

Stokes said during Clark’s sentencing that that the priest could have “defused” the tense situation but instead “inflamed” it through his actions. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland fired Cipolle last year.

The Supreme Judicial Court also rejected the defense contention that jurors should have been given the option of convicting Clark of manslaughter, and that his confession shouldn’t have been allowed at the trial.

Clark told police he killed his sister-in-law, saying she pushed “every frigging button she could” until he snapped.

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