Man not guilty of murder attempt

This story was published on Aug. 18, 2005 on Page B3 in edition 2 of the Bangor Daily News

MACHIAS – A Washington County Superior Court jury deliberated for six hours Wednesday before finding a 19-year-old man not guilty of attempted murder, but guilty of aggravated assault.

Seth A. Larkin of Pleasant Point faced up to 30 years in prison on three Class A counts – one for attempted murder and two for elevated aggravated assault, plus two more Class B counts of aggravated assault.

He was convicted on one of the Class B counts of aggravated assault, which carries up to a 10-year sentence. He admitted on the stand that he had stabbed another 19-year-old in the upper chest at a party last December.

Larkin’s defense attorney, John Mitchell of Calais, argued that Larkin had been acting in self-defense.

“It was a compromise verdict,” Mitchell said. “I guess the system works. … The state didn’t prove its charges. I thank heavens that the citizens of Maine [the jurors] respect the concept of reasonable doubt.”

Paul Cavanaugh, the county’s first assistant district attorney, handled the case for the state in front of Justice Jeffrey Hjelm. A Washington County grand jury in February had indicted Larkin on five counts for the trial jury to consider different theories of Larkin’s conduct.

Cavanaugh declined comment Wednesday as the jurors left the courtroom.

In his closing comments, Cavanaugh had told them, “This was an underaged drinking party, which Mr. Mitchell called a series of unfortunate incidents and nearly tragic.

“It was more than that. It was an aggressive attack, and Larkin did it. This is not something to feel sad about or even have sympathy about. This is a crime that Larkin ought to be held accountable for.”

Larkin had stabbed Jonathan Clement with a 5-inch blade after he had been punched in the nose. The wound to Clement’s right breast area was bleeding heavily as he was taken by ambulance to Calais Regional Hospital where he underwent surgery.

All witnesses who had been in the house at the time of the stabbing testified during the trial.

The stabbing occurred at 3:30 a.m. on the Pleasant Point reservation. Larkin had recently returned to the reservation on an early release program from the state’s juvenile detention facility at Charleston. He had been serving a sentence for a prior conviction for elevated aggravated assault as a juvenile.

The justice said sentencing will take place as soon as possible, when it is convenient for the attorneys to reconvene.

Larkin was returned to the Washington County Jail, where he has been held on $5,000 cash bail or $25,000 surety since his arrest in the early morning of Dec. 29.

Mitchell did not argue for lower bail for Larkin because he is being held on a separate probation matter.

Larkin, who wore a blue shirt and tie, was supported in the courtroom through the two-day trial by eight family members and friends from his community.

After the jury’s forewoman announced a not guilty verdict on the attempted murder charge, Larkin glanced back at his supporters.

The jury of seven women and five men had deliberated for four hours before contacting the judge with a question. They indicated they had reached verdicts on three of the five counts, yet wanted to hear again the definitions for “serious bodily injury” and “bodily injury.”

The judge instructed them to continue deliberating, even though the courthouse was supposed to be vacated at 4 p.m.

Two hours later, at 6 p.m., the judge sent a note asking if the jurors expected to stay much longer or if they wished to return in the morning. They announced their verdict at 6:30 p.m.