BANGOR – The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is taking its robes on a road trip this week with stops in South Portland, Lewiston and the Queen City.
The justices will convene today as the law court at Lewiston Middle School and on Friday at the Penobscot County Courthouse in Bangor. They met Wednesday at South Portland High School.
The seven justices of Maine’s highest court are scheduled to hear appeals in nine cases, including five that originated in Penobscot County.
The appeal of a Carmel man’s murder conviction for shooting and then dismembering the body of a friend in July 2003 is to be argued today in Lewiston. Jimmy Lipham, 45, is serving a 40-year sentence for killing David Langway, 53, of Winterport in the woods behind Lipham’s Hudson Road residence.
Lipham’s attorney, Bradford S. Macdonald of Bangor, is expected to argue that Maine Superior Court Justice Andrew Mead should not have let the jury hear a secretly recorded telephone call between Lipham and his wife, Kerry Lipham. The Maine State Police taped the phone conversation without Jimmy Lipham’s knowledge shortly after Langway’s body was discovered. Jimmy Lipham was visiting family in Alabama on Oct. 2, 2003, when the call was recorded.
In a brief to the law court, Macdonald argued that the judge should have applied Alabama rather than Maine law to determine whether the defendant had waived the spousal privilege rule. The attorney also claimed that the defendant’s side of the phone call was not relevant to a murder charge because Jimmy Lipham’s statements showed that his intent was to cover up the accidental shooting of Langway rather than to hide an intentional murder.
When Jimmy Lipham took the stand in his own defense during the 31/2-day trial in June 2005 in Penobscot County Superior Court, he said that he shot Langway accidentally. He told the jury that he panicked after he shot his friend and left the body in the woods. Lipham also testified that a few days later, he dismembered the corpse and buried the torso in the woods.
If Macdonald were to win the appeal, a new trial would be held.
The justices also today will hear an appeal in a Washington County eviction case. It is the fourth time the case has been before the state’s high court on different questions of law.
Its latest trip to the high court began when the Passamaquoddy Tribe appealed a Washington County Superior Court ruling that said the case belonged in state rather than tribal court. The tribe appealed the decision, arguing that the issues involved are internal tribal matters and should be handled in tribal court.
While they are in Bangor on Friday, the justices will hear appeals of two cases involving employment issues and one concerning real estate. Attorneys from Gilbert & Greif, a Bangor firm, will present arguments in all three cases.
Arguments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Friday in the third-floor courtroom of the Penobscot County Courthouse on Hammond Street in Bangor.