AUGUSTA — An attorney for Justin Pillsbury, who was convicted of murder earlier this month in the stabbing death of Jillian T. Jones in Augusta, has filed a motion seeking a new trial, alleging the prosecutor’s description of Pillsbury as “a green-eyed monster” during the trial had racial connotations that prejudiced the jury.

The prosecutor, meanwhile, said he was referring to jealousy, not race, with that comment, and that the issue raised in the motion was already raised and rejected by the court during the trial.

In a motion filed in superior court Thursday, Stephen Smith states the origins of the term green-eyed monster can be traced to the William Shakespeare play “Othello,” in which Othello, a black Moor, kills his wife, Desdemona, following rumors of her infidelity.

In his opening statement in the trial, Assistant Attorney General David Macomber said Pillsbury’s motive in killing Jones, his girlfriend, was jealousy and that “a green-eyed monster was uncaged in that apartment.”

Smith alleges that statement prejudiced the jury and combined with the testimony of a witness he argued should have been inadmissible should result in a new trial.

“In this case, the prosecutor simply could have argued that the evidence would demonstrate that the victim died because of the defendant’s jealousy,” Smith wrote in the motion filed at the Capital Judicial Center Thursday. But the prosecutor, Smith said, instead went further, using the phrase a “green-eyed monster was uncaged” to describe Pillsbury’s actions in stabbing Jones in a Crosby Street apartment.

“Whether intended or not, the prosecutor’s words appealed to the jurors’ subliminal prejudices and fears,” Smith said.

Macomber said the state certainly denies there were any racial overtones in the “green-eyed monster” comment.

“It was clear to the jury that I was referring to the defendant’s jealousy and not to his race,” Macomber said in an email Thursday. “This issue was already raised by the defense during the trial, and the court rejected the defense motion for mistrial at that time.”

Macomber added that he offered to make clear in his closing statement that he was only referring to the defendant’s jealousy, but the defense and court did not allow him to do so.

Pillsbury, 41, was found guilty March 17 of stabbing and killing Jones, 24, during an argument that escalated after Pillsbury took Jones’ cellphone and refused to give it back, according to trial testimony. Jones, a Bingham native, was attending beauty school in Waterville at the time of her death.

Macomber said during the trial that Pillsbury was jealous and believed Jones was communicating on her cellphone with another man.

“Othello,” Smith writes in the motion for a new trial, is a tragedy in which the title character, a general in the army of Venice, elopes with Desdemona, the daughter of one of the city-state’s senators. Othello is driven to kill Desdemona by Iago, a trusted friend. Iago desires Desdemona for himself, Smith wrote, and whispers rumors of her infidelity to Othello.

Smith quotes Iago in the court filing:

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss

Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;

But, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er

Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!”

Smith also cites in his argument for a new trial the testimony of witness Brittany York, who testified she was in Pillsbury’s apartment in Benton in July of 2013 when Pillsbury accused Jones of cheating on him and shoved her into the couch. Smith said that testimony should have been deemed inadmissible because it was inflammatory and prejudicial.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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Twitter: @kedwardskj