A car related to the 2022 fatal shooting on Woodford Street in Portland is loaded onto a flatbed tow truck as a Portland police officer surveys the ground nearby. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Lawyers for a Saco man accused of fatally shooting one person and wounding another in Portland in 2022 argued Monday that possibly self-incriminating statements he made to police, friends and family members should be excluded from trial because his decision to offer them stemmed from his mental illnesses.

Damion Butterfield’s appearance in Cumberland County Superior Court raised another set of unusual legal questions in a case that has already seen the defendant plead not guilty by reason of insanity: Can incriminating phone calls and text messages sent to friends and statements made to police be truly “voluntarily given,” and thus admissible in court, if the person who made them has mental health problems that contribute to poor impulse control?

Derald “Darry” Coffin Photo courtesy of Terry Leonard

Police say Butterfield, 23, killed Derald “Darry” Coffin, 43, and attempted to kill Coffin’s friend Annabelle Hartnett, 29, after a planned robbery went bad. Butterfield and his accomplices Thomas MacDonald, 44, Jonathan Geisinger, 44, and Anthony Osborne, 45, were all charged with felony murder, but police say it was Butterfield who fired a .22 caliber revolver at Coffin and Hartnett after the pair attempted to flee the ambush.

A police affidavit details a complex case built on old-fashioned interviews, electronic data, surveillance footage, GPS locations, cellphone records, information from confidential sources, jail-house informants and witness interviews. Confessions from MacDonald, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges, tied Butterfield to the shooting, according to court records.

But Monday’s hearing on the defense’s motion to suppress evidence focused on the admissibility of information from another source: Butterfield himself.



Expert witness James Harrison, a neuropsychologist who has twice evaluated Butterfield – once in 2017 after he allegedly committed an assault as a juvenile, and again this past June – spent much of his time on the stand sharing what he had learned about the defendant’s upbringing and how issues from childhood could contribute to current mental health problems and cognitive deficiencies.

The details, which Harrison said he collected mostly from Butterfield and his stepmother, were grim. He said Butterfield was exposed to significant amounts of alcohol and either crack cocaine or amphetamines while in the womb and may have been born addicted to drugs.

Butterfield never knew his biological mother, who abandoned him twice as an infant. His father, who died in 2021, was abusive and from an early age encouraged Butterfield to fight in order to “toughen him up,” Harrison said.

By age 11, he was drinking, doing drugs and getting in trouble with police. At age 12, he began dealing drugs, according to Harrison. A parade of charges – criminal threatening, terrorizing, assaults – landed him in Long Creek Youth Detention Center, where he says he spent about four and a half years. After his 18th birthday, he had been in and out of county jails until the shooting last April.

“This kid has had no chance from day one,” defense lawyer James Howaniec told the Press Herald after the hearing. “He’s been behind the 8-ball since birth.”

Though Butterfield is normally smiling and likable, according to Harrison, his violent upbringing has contributed to a slate of mental illnesses and cognitive deficiencies, including ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, depression, difficulty learning, and poor emotional regulation and self-control. For a time, he was on mood stabilizers and anti-depressants to help treat his conditions. After leaving Long Creek, Harrison said, Butterfield stopped treatment.


Butterfield’s mental capacities have been central to the case since June, when he entered a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. But Monday’s hearing involved fresh questions, ones with potentially wide-ranging implications in Maine law, around whether statements that would normally be admissible in court should be barred because of Butterfield’s mental illnesses.


On May 4, 2022, two Portland detectives interviewed Butterfield, who was in jail on charges unrelated to Coffin’s slaying. They made friendly small talk for a few minutes and at one point complimented their subject’s many face tattoos. They asked for and received permission to ask him a few questions, though Butterfield warned he would not be willing to say much without a lawyer.

“If it gets too ‘legal’ I’ve got to get up out of here, you know?” he says on the recording of the interview, which the defense presented in court Monday.

When the detectives begin asking him about his role in the shooting, Butterfield denies any knowledge. As they press him and describe evidence they have linking him to the crime – some real, and some fabricated – he says several times that he’s not going to talk to them, but instead of ending the interview he reengages. He never confesses, but he does make statements that could look bad in front of a jury.

“Nobody can rope me into anything,” Butterfield tells the detectives after they say they don’t believe he was the mastermind behind the robbery. “Nobody made me do anything.”


“I’m never going to say anything,” he says toward the end of the interview. “I’m not going to fold under pressure. I was brought up different.”

After watching the recording, Harrison said, Butterfield recognized that he should have stopped talking, but his poor impulse control, exacerbated by his cognitive deficiencies, prevented him from following through.

“He seems to have limits in his head of what he can and can’t say, but he can’t stick to them,” Harrison said. “He can’t just sit and wait. His brain is not set up that way.”

The defense is also seeking to exclude recordings of numerous calls and transcripts of text messages Butterfield made to his stepmother, his girlfriend and others from the York County Jail and the Maine State Prison, where he is being held without bail. It was not clear during the hearing what Butterfield said in those messages or how incriminating they are. Howaniec declined to detail what the recordings and messages show, but he said they should not be revealed to a jury because Butterfield’s mental state left him unable to voluntarily make statements about his case.

During her cross-examination, prosecutor Leanne Robbin argued that Butterfield showed he was capable of controlling impulses when he refused to confess to detectives and when he called a family member from another prisoner’s phone line in an apparent attempt to keep officials from accessing the recording of the call.

Even if Judge MaryGay Kennedy does accept the defense’s argument that Butterfield acted impulsively and that his behavior was linked to mental illnesses, it’s not clear whether she will agree that the statements were made voluntarily or whether that matters in the case of the calls and texts. According to Howaniec, federal and Maine law are split on whether statements on jail calls must be made voluntarily to be admissible.



Discussion on the motion to suppress will resume on Aug. 31, when the state’s forensic expert is scheduled to take the stand. Both sides will then submit written arguments to Kennedy, who will rule on whether the prosecution can admit Butterfield’s statements as evidence.

Kennedy will also hear arguments on the defense’s motion to sever Butterfield’s case from the remaining two co-defendants’. If that succeeds, as the defense expects, Butterfield’s trial will likely begin on Nov. 28, according to Howaniec.

Given the complexity of the case, which has produced more than 2,600 pages of discovery and dozens of audio files and will likely require testimony from at least a dozen expert witnesses, Howaniec said the trial could last between two and four weeks.

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