Damion Butterfield looks around a Cumberland County Superior courtroom in December. Butterfield pleaded guilty to a murder charge in the 2022 shooting death of Derald Coffin, but now wants to withdraw that plea and fight for a new trial. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Prosecutors say a man’s unusual request to withdraw his guilty plea to murder – after a jury had reached a verdict – is a “cynical attempt to game the system.”

Damion Butterfield, 24, pleaded guilty in Cumberland County Superior Court last month to murder and attempted murder charges in the death of Derald Coffin and shooting of Annabelle Hartnett in Portland. It was a last-minute deal he made with prosecutors hours after the verdict had been reached in his two-week trial. The verdict was never read.

Derald “Darry” Coffin Photo courtesy of Terry Leonard

He agreed to serve a 35-year sentence under the deal, waiving his right to appeal the verdict. His attorneys publicly advised him against accepting it because they said the jury instructions – which advised jurors that they could find Butterfield guilty of murder either as the shooter or as an accomplice – were confusing and could lead to a successful appeal.

Butterfield’s attorneys on Jan. 1 filed a motion to withdraw his plea and get a new trial. But prosecutors said in court filings Tuesday that to grant these requests “would be a gross miscarriage of justice.”

They argued that the defense’s motions, originally filed without Butterfield’s knowledge, are another attempt to complicate what the state has always said was a simple case: Butterfield, one of four men who conspired to rob Coffin and Hartnett on April 26, 2022, surprised the group by shooting Coffin and Hartnett in front of several eyewitnesses, and later made several jokes and apparent admissions of guilt in recorded jail calls and texts afterward.



Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said a new trial would be hard on Coffin’s family members, who were in the courtroom every day of Butterfield’s trial as jurors watched and rewatched videos of police trying to speak with Hartnett and Coffin after they were shot.

Hartnett, who was nearly killed by a bullet that pierced the brim of her baseball cap, testified during Butterfield’s trial. Robbin said she was subjected to lawyers’ “humiliating” inquiries about past substance use “after she had finally achieved sobriety for several months.”

“It would be unconscionable to require her to relive her trauma yet another time, simply because Butterfield and his counsel have the cruel desire to take another crack at her,” Robbin wrote.

Robbin said Butterfield’s defense attorney, James Howaniec, filed the motions to withdraw the plea and ask for a new trial without his client’s initial knowledge. Howaniec said he did that to preserve Butterfield’s right to do so under a 14-day deadline. He said Butterfield “wholeheartedly endorsed” their decision to file the motions in a meeting a couple of weeks afterward.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin makes her opening statements in Damion Butterfield’s murder trial in Cumberland County Superior Court in December. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Howaniec said last week “that what had been a very fair trial process was all negated at the very final hour,” when the judge agreed to use the accomplice theory in jury instructions.

He said prosecutors had only argued that Butterfield was the shooter, and nothing less. And that’s what Butterfield’s lawyers spent hundreds of hours basing their defense strategy on. Robbin firmly disagreed with this characterization in the motions filed Tuesday.


She said it was Butterfield’s lawyers who introduced evidence that merited the accomplice theory. They argued throughout the trial that Butterfield’s former co-defendant Jonathan Geisinger was actually the gunman and everyone else was covering for him.

Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy considered Howaniec’s objections behind closed doors, including a motion for mistrial after the instructions were read, according to Robbin’s memo, and still stood by the instructions as they were read.

The attorneys are scheduled to meet for a private conference Thursday morning, and a hearing is scheduled on the motions for late April. It was not clear Wednesday if the state would still have to follow the terms of the plea agreement, or if a judge could give Butterfield a longer sentence for backing out of the deal, if he is not granted a new trial.


The attorney general’s filings opposing Butterfield’s request for a new trial are the first time prosecutors have been fully able to present transcripts of incriminating calls and texts they said Butterfield made from jail, both before and after his trial.

Prosecutors were barred from playing Butterfield’s jail calls for the jury after the defense team convinced Kennedy to throw them out as sanctions because the prosecution failed to share all exculpatory evidence with the defense. The defense said there are several texts that show Butterfield’s confession that he shot Coffin is not reliable.


“You know I’m about to get mad time, right?” Butterfield told one friend before his trial.

“They got me,” he told another.

“This case ain’t looking good.”

He joked with his girlfriend about letting her wash the clothes he was allegedly wearing during the shooting “ten times over” to remove evidence. He fretted about surveillance camera footage of him and two of his co-defendants getting into a car that was spotted at the crime scene. He asked one friend to look up articles about an interview with Hartnett, who, to Butterfield’s relief, said she didn’t personally know her assailant.

“Butterfield has never in his many jail calls implicated anyone other than himself as the shooter,” Robbin wrote.

Damion Butterfield’s defense attorney, James Howaniec, listens to Assistant Attorney General Lisa Bogue summarize the evidence against his client during the trial in Cumberland County Superior Court in December. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Robbin’s filing also included several other pieces of incriminating evidence that didn’t come up in trial, including that Butterfield’s former co-defendant, Anthony Osborne, also identified Butterfield as the shooter in out-of-court statements.


Osborne was not a part of Butterfield’s trial, during which another former co-defendant and Hartnett both testified that Butterfield, or someone bearing his appearance, was the gunman. Osborne pleaded guilty to one count of robbery in January and is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.

Robbin also attached more than 30 pages of texts that Butterfield sent his girlfriend after his plea hearing using a Maine State Prison issued tablet.

“Like idk what u dont get,” Butterfield wrote. “i can say it now i did the (expletive) … It wasnt how they said it but i did that (expletive) im sorryyyy.”

Howaniec said Tuesday that he was still reading Robbin’s motion and attachments, much of which included intimate conversations Butterfield shared with his girlfriend over the prison-monitored tablets and unrelated, personal conversations with friends.

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