A former Riverview Psychiatric Center patient convicted of assaulting a pregnant mental health worker and stabbing her in the hand with a pen will face a new sentencing hearing for that offense.

Mark P. Murphy, 49, was convicted by a judge of two counts of elevated aggravated assault and one of assault, all involving the March 16, 2013, attack on Jamie Hill-Spotswood. Murphy was sentenced in June 2014 to 10 years in prison for that attack, with an additional five years suspended and two years of probation.

Murphy, through attorney Scott Hess, filed an appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which heard oral arguments in April and on Tuesday affirmed a number of rulings in the case, but remanded it for re-sentencing.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court sent the case back “to the trial court for identification of the single count of which Murphy was convicted, dismissal of the remaining two counts, and entry of a final sentence on the merged charge,” says the decision written by Associate Justice Joseph Jabar.

In other main concerns raised by the defense, the law court concluded that Murphy did not have to waive his right to testify explicitly on the record, saying, “In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we assume that represented clients were properly advised of their right to testify.”

The appeals court also upheld Marden’s conclusion that Murphy was criminally responsible for the attack.

Witnesses at the trial testified that the day before the March 16, 2013, attack, Murphy was angry because the staff had canceled his Saturday visit to his parents’ home in Kittery. The state maintained that anger — not mental illness — drove Murphy to attack Hill-Spotswood, who was about 18 weeks pregnant at the time.

“It was not error for the court to accept Dr. (Andrew) Wisch’s testimony that Murphy’s actions derived from anger and not, as Dr. (Carlyle) Voss testified, from mental disease or defect,” Jabar wrote. “The record does not compel a contrary conclusion.”

Hess, who argued on Murphy’s behalf in front of the law court, declined to comment at that point in anticipation of a new sentencing hearing for Murphy.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who argued on behalf of the state, said, “The state agreed that when Mr. Murphy was convicted on count 1 (elevated aggravated assault), counts 2 (elevated aggravated assault) and 3 (aggravated assault) should have been dismissed as they involve the same actions on different legal theories. I expect the final sentence will remain the same as it was applied to count 1. The time on counts 2 and 3 was less and was run concurrent.”

Maloney added, “While I am pleased that the law court agrees that Riverview workers cannot be openly treated like punching bags, the decision does not alleviate the ongoing need for a new solution for forensic mental health patients.”

Maloney’s district includes Riverview, the state hospital in Augusta for patients with severe and persistent mental illness, including those charged with crimes and found not criminally responsible for crimes. Her office has prosecuted defendants accused of a number of assaults at the facility, largely by forensic patients on workers.

A conviction for elevated aggravated assault, a class A crime under Maine’s criminal code, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

A re-sentencing hearing for Murphy has yet to be scheduled in the Kennebec County Superior Court case.

Murphy was placed at Riverview initially in February 2006 after being found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disease or defect for aggravated criminal mischief that occurred in York County when Murphy broke into a neighbor’s home. The neighbor shot Murphy in the chest.

A report to Kennebec County Superior Court by Riverview in April 2007 showed that within six weeks of Murphy’s arrival at the hospital, “he had committed three assaults on staff members, the third assault was nearly fatal.”

Court records also show the hospital reported that Murphy assaulted another patient with a fork on Oct. 9, 2007.

The assault by Murphy in the hospital’s Lower Saco Unit touched off heightened security concerns, prompting the hospital to bring in state and county corrections officers to monitor specific patients.

However, officers were stripped of stun guns and handcuffs in May after federal regulators objected to the new measures, and the corrections officers were gone by the end of August. The attack also triggered a federal audit of the hospital, which resulted in the loss of its eligibility for $20 million in federal money — about half of the hospital’s budget.

Hill-Spotswood, now 28, sued the state in federal court, maintaining that the state failed to protect her after she had told others at the hospital that she feared for her safety. That lawsuit was dismissed later.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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