A judge has denied the state’s request to delay a hearing into the case of Anthony H. Sanborn Jr., who was released on bail in April after new evidence emerged in his 1992 murder conviction.

Judge Joyce Wheeler denied the request by prosecutors from the Maine Attorney General’s Office on Thursday, according to court records. An email dated July 6 and sent to all four attorneys involved in the Sanborn case said Wheeler denied the continuance request, but left open the possibility of delaying the start of the hearing by one week. The email was sent by Julie Howard, manager of operations for the Portland Unified Criminal Court.

Sanborn was convicted of the 1989 murder of Jessica L. Briggs, who was 16 when she was stabbed to death and her body dumped in Portland Harbor. Sanborn, who was also 16 at the time and had dated Briggs, has maintained his innocence since he was arrested in 1990. He spent 25 years of a 70-year sentence in prison until he was released on bail in April.

Hope Cady, also 16 at the time of the killing, testified at Sanborn’s trial that she saw him murder Briggs on the Maine State Pier. But during a bail hearing in April, Cady recanted her testimony, testifying that Portland police detectives had threatened to lock her up if she did not testify against Sanborn. She testified at the hearing that she was not even on the pier that night.

Court documents filed Thursday say Wheeler suggested that the evidentiary hearing could begin Aug. 1 instead of July 24 – provided that Sanborn’s attorneys and prosecutors agree to a one-week delay.

Sanborn’s attorney, Amy Fairfield, would not comment on the judge’s decision when reached Thursday. Assistant Attorneys General Megan Elam and Paul Rucha could not be reached for comment.

But in the state’s June 29 motion to continue the hearing, Rucha said he replaced Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber and needed more time to review case materials, especially in the event of a prolonged shutdown of state government. The three-day shutdown ended Wednesday.

Macomber represented the state at the April hearing. The Attorney General’s Office says that Macomber is “now a witness at further hearings regarding the truthfulness of Cady’s statements” and has been removed as the state’s lead prosecutor.

“Replacement counsel are attempting to review the voluminous materials from the original case as well as the many volumes of transcripts from the bind over hearing and the trial which number over two thousand pages. The state believes that petitioner’s counsel has had a year to review the material and yet only filed the petition in January,” the state said in its continuance motion.

Fairfield issued a formal objection to a continuance in court documents dated June 30.

“More time will not fix this case, and even if the state were granted a 12-month extension, this case will not be ‘steered where it needs to be,’ ” Fairfield wrote, a reference to a recent witness interview conducted by a Portland police detective.

“Another continuance is of great prejudice to the petitioner (Sanborn) and his team,” Fairfield said. “A continuance is also prejudicial to the taxpayers of this state, as several plane tickets and hotel reservations have already been made.”

Fairfield has filed a witness list which contains the names of more than 50 individuals.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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