A previously undisclosed witness in the 1989 slaying of Jessica Briggs may have seen the teenager alive two hours after the last known sighting of her, according to attorneys for convicted murderer Anthony H. Sanborn Jr.

The new information, buried in a 111-page court filing, describes how Michael Brillant, an employee of Bath Iron Works, told police he saw a girl matching Briggs’ description about 2:15 a.m. on the night she was brutally killed in Portland.

During Sanborn’s trial, multiple witnesses testified that Briggs was seen walking toward the Maine State Pier past a bus full of BIW workers shortly after midnight.

Records pertaining to Brillant’s claims were discovered by Sanborn’s attorneys Aug. 24 from a batch of thousands of documents that had been stored for years at the home of the lead investigator, retired Portland police Detective James Daniels, who turned over the case files after Sanborn was released on bail from the Maine State Prison in April.

“Brillant was walking to his car, which was parked there for his work shift,” wrote Amy Fairfield, Sanborn’s attorney, whose team interviewed him recently. “Brillant said that the two exchanged looks and he remembers saying ‘hi’ to her. Brillant said Jessica kept walking in the direction of the Maine State Pier.”

Fairfield added: “This information was discovered within the last few days, and it was only discovered because of the notes that have only recently been produced by retired PPD Detective James Daniels.”

The potentially important revelation comes amid the most detailed filings yet in Sanborn’s attempt to clear his name. Sanborn, 45, who now lives in Westbrook with his wife, Michelle, was arrested in 1990 for Briggs’ killing and was convicted of murder two years later. Sanborn has maintained his innocence through 27 years of incarceration.

The dense document, filed Aug. 30, was in response to a judge’s order requiring Sanborn’s team to spell out in greater detail the claims they have made previously in a series of court filings that began in January. The state will have 21 days to file a response.

Sanborn is due back in court Oct. 10 for 12 days of evidentiary hearings, where Fairfield and Assistant Attorneys General Meg Elam and Paul Rucha are expected to call dozens of witnesses to test their claims.

Much of the case by Sanborn’s attorneys rests on so-called Brady material, a reference to a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that established an affirmative duty by prosecutors to turn over to the defense all evidence that could be helpful to a defendant.

Fairfield alleges that police and prosecutors worked together to hide evidence and, therefore, violated Sanborn’s constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law.

From the first petition for post-conviction relief filed in January, Sanborn, through his attorneys, has claimed that he was the victim of a systematic effort by police and prosecutors to falsely convict him of Briggs’ murder.

Fairfield also alleges that witnesses were intimidated and coerced by Daniels and Portland police Detective Daniel Young, who were assigned to investigate the killing of Briggs.

Daniels and Young insist they did nothing wrong during their nearly three-year investigation.

The state, through the Maine Attorney General’s Office, is fighting to preserve the conviction, and has argued that Sanborn’s claims are unfounded and should be discarded based on time limits for bringing forward new evidence.

Briggs and Sanborn, who were both 16 at the time her death, dated briefly several weeks before her body was recovered from Portland Harbor. Briggs had been struck in the face, her throat had been cut, she was stabbed multiple times in the abdomen and nearly disemboweled.

Prosecutors said Sanborn killed Briggs because she did not agree to travel to Virginia Beach, Virginia, with him, and then refused to turn over tip money she earned earlier that evening working at DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant.

A murder weapon was never recovered and no physical evidence tied Sanborn to the crime.

A single eyewitness, Hope Cady, who was 13 at the time of the slaying, testified at trial that she saw Sanborn stab Briggs on the Maine State Pier late at night from a distance.

At Sanborn’s bail hearing in April, Cady testified that she lied under oath at trial, and that detectives threatened to jail her if she did not implicate Sanborn.

In addition to the recantation, Fairfield has also raised questions about Cady’s eyesight, and alleged that police knew Cady had difficulty seeing at the time of the murder. Shortly after the killing, Cady’s vision was assessed at 20/200, meeting medical definitions of legally blind.

In the new filings, Fairfield suggests that the seed of Cady’s narrative was borrowed from another witness, Robert Stubbs, who told police that he saw the murder from an elevated position on the pier in plain view of the scene. But Stubbs identified the murder scene as under the Million Dollar Bridge that connected Portland with South Portland.

Information from Stubbs was never formalized in a police report or turned over to the defense, according to the court records.

“This information, however, was likely a roadmap for Cady’s eventual disclosure,” Fairfield wrote. “It is a well established fact that Cady and Bobby Stubbs knew each other well.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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