Mark Cardilli Jr. leaves a courtroom following his bail hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court Friday, when he was freed on $20,000 cash bail. The hearing followed a ruling this week in which a Superior Court judge vacated Cardilli’s manslaughter conviction this week and granted him a new trial. The Office of the Maine Attorney general is appealing that ruling. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Prosecutors are appealing a ruling this week that granted a new trial to a Portland man convicted of manslaughter for killing a 22-year-old Somali man in 2019.

Isahak Muse Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said she has filed a notice of intent to appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Robbin is challenging an order from Superior Justice John O’Neil on Tuesday that vacated a manslaughter conviction against Mark Cardilli Jr., 28. O’Neil said Cardilli’s attorney failed to properly make a self-defense argument during the 2019 trial.

Cardilli was released from state custody on $20,000 cash bail after a bail hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court on Friday afternoon. He has served roughly half of his 7 ½-year sentence. He was ordered not to contact Muse’s family and is barred from having any dangerous weapons.

Cardilli was charged with murder in 2019 after he admitted to shooting Muse at the Cardilli family home during an argument. Muse, who was unarmed, was dating Cardilli’s sister. Cardilli was acquitted of the more serious charge and found guilty of manslaughter instead.

Robbin said if the state’s appeal is unsuccessful and Cardilli is given a new trial, prosecutors can’t charge him with murder again because it would violate a provision in the Fifth Amendment barring anyone from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.

Cardilli appeared in court wearing a tan jumpsuit from the Cumberland County Jail, where he was transferred from the Windham Correctional Center this week. His family declined to speak with a reporter at his hearing.



Just as the court proceedings began, about three dozen members of Portland’s Somali community gathered about a mile away at the Muslim Community Center to express their disappointment in the decision to vacate Cardilli’s conviction. They had just finished afternoon prayers.

Fatuma Hussein of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine speaks at a news conference held by the Somali community to express its disappointment with a court decision Tuesday to give Mark Cardilli Jr. a new trial. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“It’s vital for the family, our youth, and our entire society to know that every Mainer’s life is equally valued under the law,” said Rep. Deqa Dhalac, D-South Portland. “It’s bigger than Isahak and his family. All our lives are really on the line.”

Mahmoud Hassan, board president of the Somali Community Center of Maine, said Muse’s family has suffered a lot and has since moved from Portland.

He said Cardilli’s successful appeal retraumatized the community.

“Justice needs to be served. The scale needs to be balanced,” said Abas Mohammed, a friend of Muse’s.


Fatuma Hussein at the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine described Muse as a “gentle soul” who from a young age helped take care of his mother.

“He cared about human life. Regardless of what background you came from you always deserved a life,” she said.

The group called on the Office of the Maine Attorney General and Gov. Janet Mills’ office to meet with representatives from the Black and Muslim communities to talk about how to fix the justice system.

“We know that when it comes to the criminal justice system we don’t get a fair shake,” Hussein said.

Abas Mohammed speaks about his friend Isahak Muse during the news conference Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

On Tuesday, Muse’s sister said the family was deeply disappointed to learn that Cardilli’s conviction had been vacated.

“We are devastated and shocked to hear of this decision and can not understand how we could lose my little brother, but Cardilli will get to walk around free,” Asli Muse said in a statement released by the attorney general’s office. “He took my brother’s life, and was convicted of this. It is not fair that he barely served any time and can just walk away from it all. We can’t get my brother back.”


An attorney general’s spokesperson said the family didn’t want to speak further.


The shooting of Muse, who was Black and Muslim, sparked protests and racial tensions that continued after Cardilli was granted $50,000 bail. More than 250 people gathered outside the courthouse the following week to protest the decision.

When Cardilli’s sister took the stand during the trial, she testified that her older brother had told her that Somali people are gang members, that Black people shot by police are always the ones at fault and that Muslims are terrorists.

Muse was a frequent guest at the family’s home before his death, according to testimony during the original trial. Though the Cardilli family originally objected to Muse coming over on the evening of March 15, 2019, they eventually agreed to allow him to stay with their daughter Chelsey until 1 a.m.

When Muse refused to leave, Mark Cardilli Jr. and his father attempted to force him from the home. A shoving match soon broke out among the three of them and Chelsey Cardilli. Eventually, Mark Cardilli Jr., an Army veteran, ran upstairs to his room and removed a handgun from a safe. He returned, aimed the gun at Muse and told him to leave.


Mark Cardilli Jr., exits the courtroom following his hearing, Friday. Cardilli was granted a $20,000 cash bail while prosecutors appeal a decision vacating his manslaughter conviction.

Cardilli testified that Muse instead ran at him and began throwing punches. After backing down the hallway into a corner – one hand protecting his face from blows and another by his side with the gun – Cardilli raised the gun and shot Muse, he said. Forensic experts for both sides agreed that the shots hit Muse in the back at contact range, though they disagreed about whether Muse was turning to run or was twisting away from the gun.

In his ruling Tuesday, O’Neil said that this was one of the most challenging cases he’s considered in his career. Cardilli’s conviction had already survived a previous appeal in June 2021, when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court disagreed with Cardilli’s attorneys, who argued that he shot Muse in self-defense.

The high court will now review the case again, this time considering whether Cardilli’s previous attorney failed to properly argue that Cardilli was acting in self-defense.

During a post-conviction review hearing in April, Cardilli’s new legal team argued his previous lawyers, Matt Nichols and Sarah Churchill, should have done more to incorporate a specific self-defense statute that justifies the use of deadly force against a person one “reasonably believes” is about to use deadly force against them.

O’Neil agreed, writing that Cardilli had successfully shown “his attorneys did not have a cohesive trial strategy.”

“The fact that trial counsel were unaware of the disharmony between their two strategies at the time of trial evidences a significant breakdown of communication,” the judge wrote.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: