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 Maine Supreme Judicial Court in a ruling Thursday found the trial judge erred when imposing his sentence, so a new sentencing hearing must be held. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

PORTLAND — The state’s highest court this week cited an error by a trial judge in determining that the prison sentence should be set aside for a Hartland man who twice wounded a Waterville police officer and fired dozens of rounds on other officers who pursued him following a traffic stop.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday that Richard Murray-Burns’ sentence be vacated and the case be sent back to a lower court for a new sentence.

Murray-Burns appealed the sentence imposed last March by Judge Bruce Mallonee. Murray-Burns was sentenced at the time to 225 years in prison with all but 30 years suspended, and with 20 years of probation, but the high court determined Mallonee erred by not properly justifying or explaining the sentence.

Prosecutors had earlier agreed that Mallonee did not follow the correct procedure in issuing the sentence.

Murray-Burns had pleaded guilty in 2021 to several charges, including 10 counts of aggravated attempted murder. The sentencing error came from the way Mallonee ordered the prison term, according to Thursday’s ruling. The judge said at the sentencing that he wanted a longer term of probation, prompting him to create five counts of back-to-back 45-year sentences, each with four years’ probation — resulting in the 20-year probationary period Murray-Burns was given.

But the high court ruled that back-to-back sentences are only allowed in certain circumstances, and then a judge must clearly explain the reason for such a punishment.


“Here, as the parties have pointed out, the court imposed consecutive sentences without making the required findings, providing the required explanation, or performing a separate … analysis for each conviction,” the ruling said. “We therefore must vacate the sentences and remand the case to the sentencing court …”

The case will likely go back before Mallonee, although a court date has not been set, according to Francis Griffin, first assistant district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties. Thursday’s decision was expected, he said.

Murray-Burns’ attorney in his appeal, Richard McNamara, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The high court declined to give instructions on what Murray-Burns’ new sentence should be, which McNamara had requested in arguments. The new sentence cannot be more severe than the original, the court said.

Griffin has said that he will ask for the sentence to be 60 years, with no time suspended and no probation, which would be less severe than the original 225-year sentence. McNamara has argued that Murray-Burns should not have to serve more prison time than the original sentence, and that the new sentence should be 45 years, all but 30 suspended, with four years’ probation.

Murray-Burns was driving a Honda Civic on Dec. 22, 2019, when he was stopped by officer Timothy Hinton on a report of shoplifting at the Walmart in Waterville. Murray-Burns was outfitted with an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle with a 60-round magazine, a .45-caliber pistol, a loaded clip for the pistol and a plate carrier, prosecutors have previously said.

Murray-Burns fled the traffic stop, leading police on a 15-mile chase where multiple rounds were fired at pursuing officers. Hinton was shot twice, once in each forearm. Murray-Burns at times stopped his car and waited for officers to catch up before firing on them. The chase ended in Canaan.

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

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