Damion Butterfield enters Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Friday. Butterfield, who was charged with the murder of Derald Coffin in 2022, was back in court for a motion filed by his lawyers to withdraw the guilty plea he entered last year. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

On the two-year anniversary of Derald Coffin’s death, his family poured into a Portland courtroom.

They watched as the man who confessed to Coffin’s murder last year entered wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, his feet shackled.

Derald “Darry” Coffin Photo courtesy of Terry Leonard

He is now asking to withdraw that admission.

Damion Butterfield, 24, pleaded guilty in Cumberland County Superior Court in December to charges of murder and attempted murder in Coffin’s fatal shooting and the shooting of Annabelle Hartnett in Portland. It was a last-minute deal he made with prosecutors at the end of a two-week trial. The jury had already reached a verdict, but it was never read.

In a hearing with Superior Justice MaryGay Kennedy on Friday, Butterfield’s attorneys argued that their client’s plea was delivered under pressure after Kennedy told the jury they could find Butterfield guilty of murder as an accomplice.

The defense is asking for a new trial. Kennedy did not make a decision on their request Friday and it’s not clear when she might rule.


The state spent two weeks showing a jury evidence that Butterfield was the gunman in a fatal robbery on Woodford Street involving three other defendants. Howaniec said the defense was blindsided when, on the night before closing arguments, prosecutors requested that the jury be read an accomplice instruction.

This completely undermined the defense’s case that Butterfield was taking the fall for one of his former co-defendants, all of whom were almost twice Butterfield’s age, said James Howaniec, Butterfield’s attorney.

On Friday, Howaniec said that he wanted to call Butterfield to the stand and have him testify about the stress he faced before pleading. If it was up to Howaniec, Butterfield would identify his former co-defendant Jonathan Geisinger as the gunman, he said.

But instead, Butterfield sat stoically at Howaniec’s side. His lawyer said Butterfield was maintaining his silence, following a “code of honor as a ‘gangster,’ quote-unquote.”

Even without Butterfield’s full and enthusiastic cooperation, Howaniec said the defense still believes in his innocence. Howaniec briefly touched upon his client’s difficult coming of age in the juvenile justice system and his struggles with mental health.

“We feel protective of him because we think he’s had an extremely hard life,” Howaniec said. “He’s been behind the 8-ball since literally before he was born.”
Prosecutors called this disingenuous.


It was Butterfield himself who approached the state about a plea deal, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Bogue said.

Bogue said it was an “extraordinary event” when Kennedy allowed Butterfield to enter a plea even after learning the jury had reached a verdict. The judge even met with Butterfield behind closed doors to make sure he was serious before holding a plea hearing in open court.

Damion Butterfield listens as his attorney, James Howaniec, argues for a motion to withdraw Butterfield’s guilty plea in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Butterfield pleaded in exchange for a 35-year sentence, waiving his right to an appeal.

Bogue said prosecutors offered Butterfield that deal so Coffin’s family could have some closure. She said a new trial would be unfair to them and Hartnett, who testified last year that she had narrowly escaped death after a bullet pierced the brim of her baseball cap and her arm.

“They’ve been here for every event for four defendants,” Bogue said of Coffin’s family. “They believe in the process.”

Bogue also asked Kennedy to look beyond Butterfield’s plea and direct her attention to several calls and texts he made from prison, in which Butterfield made several apparent admissions of guilt and jokes about the shooting.


Prosecutors sent the statements to Kennedy in February, including a text Butterfield sent to his girlfriend after the plea hearing from a Maine State Prison monitored tablet.

“Like idk what u don’t 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.”

“Post-decision, he’s saying ‘I did it,’ ” Bogue said on Friday. “It’s disingenuous for them to say we’re talking about a person who’s actually innocent.”

Two former co-defendants have identified Butterfield as the shooter after pleading guilty.

Thomas MacDonald, 45, testified against Butterfield at trial. MacDonald pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension in April 2023 and is still waiting to be sentenced.

Anthony Osborne, 46, is serving eight years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery this year. Prosecutors say Osborne was the one who orchestrated the attack on Coffin and Hartnett.


Geisinger, who was charged in 2022 with felony murder, is still waiting on a court date.

Coffin was shot a little after midnight on the morning of April 26, 2022. He was with Hartnett in her Range Rover, which was parked outside a home on Woodford Street. He was 43 years old.

At Osborne’s sentencing, his family said they were still devastated by the shooting. He was a son, a brother and the father of a 13-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.

Days after Coffin died, his family told the Press Herald that he had been making plans to move back to the Midcoast area, where he had always been met with support from those who loved him. Coffin struggled with substance use disorder but was never defined by it. He was a hard worker and outdoorsman, relatives said, who worked in construction and with cars, including Hartnett’s Range Rover.

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