Attorneys for the state and for convicted murderer Anthony H. Sanborn Jr. on Wednesday offered different takes on the significance of statements given to police by a close friend of Jessica L. Briggs, the 16-year-old girl whose murder Sanborn was convicted of in 1992.

Under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha, retired Portland police detective James Daniels testified about a statement given by Gloria Staples.

Sanborn was 16 when police say he killed Briggs, 16, his one-time girlfriend, on the Maine State Pier and dumped her body in Portland Harbor.

Sanborn was convicted in 1992 and sentenced to 70 years in prison. He was freed on bail in April after the only eyewitness, Hope Cady, recanted her testimony identifying Sanborn as the killer.

Cady said she was coerced by police into implicating Sanborn, but both Daniels and the secondary investigator on the case, Daniel Young, have denied those accounts. The state has produced evidence showing that it was Cady who pursued police.

Briggs was living with Staples and her family immediately before she was killed, and Staples provided multiple statements to police about what she knew after her friend was killed.


According to one statement, Staples told investigators Sanborn was with Briggs the night of the murder and had walked her down to the wharf, according to testimony by Daniels. She also said Sanborn knew that Briggs was now dating someone else, a man named George Ingalls.

Sanborn would call Staples’ home looking for Briggs, Staples told police at the time, but Briggs wouldn’t speak with him.

Staples also told detectives Sanborn told her during a car ride after the killing he was with Briggs on the night of the murder and the two got into a fight, and that he hit Briggs. He never admitted to Staples that he committed the murder, according to the testimony.

But under questioning from Sanborn’s attorney, Amy Fairfield, Daniels said Staples had tried to withdraw her statements to police, and evidence of that recantation was not turned over to Sanborn’s defense team.

Fairfield produced a third, unsigned statement by Staples that had a handwritten note attached to it stating that Staples called Portland detectives, said she had previously lied to them, wanted to recant and “can’t stand the pressure,” according to Fairfield.

The third unsigned statement was produced for the defense at the original 1992 trail in the discovery process, but the note indicating Staples sought to recant was not, Fairfield said.

Fairfield is expected to finish questioning Daniels on Thursday, and a new witness may be called. Who will take the stand next was still an open question when Justice Joyce Wheeler concluded the court session Wednesday afternoon.

Staples, who is on the list of potential witnesses, may take the stand Thursday, attorneys for Sanborn said.

The hearings were slated to wrap up Wednesday, but the slow pace of testimony has drawn the process out, and court officials are holding the courtroom for the proceedings indefinitely, or until Wheeler leaves for a scheduled vacation Nov. 17.

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