Defense attorney Pamela Ames speaks on behalf of her client, Richard Murray-Burns, seated, during a January 2020 court hearing in Skowhegan. Murray-Burns was later sentenced to decades in prison for a shootout with police that left an officer wounded. But the sentence has been deemed invalid because of a judge’s error and the sentencing process must begin anew. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

PORTLAND — The state’s highest court will determine how to rectify a judge’s error in the sentencing of a Hartland man convicted of shooting and wounding a Waterville police officer during a police chase in 2019.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments this week in an appeal by Richard Murray-Burns of his sentence handed down in March.

Murray-Burns was sentenced to 225 years in prison with all but 30 years suspended, and 20 years of probation, but Judge Bruce Mallonee failed to properly justify and explain the sentence.

Prosecutors agree with Murray-Burns’ attorney, Rory McNamara, that his sentence must be corrected, but they disagree on what the next steps should be and in what way the high court can change the sentence.

McNamara said during arguments Wednesday that the court can remand the case back to the lower court for sentencing and provide instructions on what is an acceptable term.

“It’s a bit of a strange procedural position,” McNamara said. “Everyone agrees it needs to be sent back, it’s just a matter of what the arguments will look like at the new sentencing.”


Mallonee said at the sentencing hearing that he wanted a longer term of probation, and he accomplished this by sentencing Murray-Burns to five consecutive 45-year sentences, each with four years’ probation, resulting in the 20-year probationary period.

While judges can order consecutive prison terms, they have to justify why a crime is severe enough to warrant a longer sentence, according to briefs filed as part of the appeal.

Mallonee did not justify the sentence, so it is invalid. Attempts to reach Mallonee Friday for an explanation were unsuccessful.

Francis Griffin, first assistant district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, argued before the supreme court this week that the court could not make a decision on the appeal until the lower court judge issued a legal sentence – that sentence could then be appealed to the high court.

“Logically speaking, this sentence has to be a legal sentence before it comes before this court as a sentencing review panel, and that isn’t before the court today,” Griffin said.

Murray-Burns’ sentence cannot be more severe than the original, but the two sides disagree over what that means. Griffin said he would ask for a 60-year sentence, no time suspended and no probation, which would be less severe than the original 225-year sentence, but would result in more prison time.


McNamara argued that Murray-Burns should not have to serve more time than under the original sentence. He argued for a sentence of 45 years, all but 30 suspended, and four years’ probation.

The high court is considering the arguments and can issue an opinion, dismiss the matter or take some other action, but it could be months before that decision is announced.

Murray-Burns was involved in a police chase and shootout that began in Waterville. He was driving on Dec. 22, 2019, when he was stopped by police based on a shoplifting report at the Walmart in Waterville. Murray-Burns had an AR-15-style rifle with a 60-round magazine, a .45-caliber pistol, a loaded clip for the pistol and body armor.

Murray-Burns fled and led police on a 15-mile chase during which he fired multiple rounds at pursuing officers. Timothy Hinton, the Waterville officer who initially stopped Murray-Burns, was shot twice, once in each forearm. His patrol vehicle was struck by gunfire 16 times.

At times during the chase, Murray-Burns seemed to stop and wait for officers to arrive and then ambush them, Maloney said at the sentencing. The shootout ended later in Canaan.

Murray-Burns was shot several times and was taken to a hospital where tests found that he had fentanyl and benzodiazepines in his system. He acknowledged that he was on LSD at the time and was struggling with his mental health.

“I know what I have done is serious,” Murray-Burns said at sentencing. “It’s no excuse. I’m not here to make excuses. This did not come from a place of hate, but a place of confusion and delusion.”

He pleaded guilty to 10 counts of aggravated attempted assault, and single counts of failure to stop for an officer, theft by unauthorized taking and robbery.

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