ROCKLAND — A judge has dismissed child pornography charges against a former Rockland resident, saying the delay in the case going to trial placed an undue burden on the defense.

Justice Daniel Billings issued his dismissal order Thursday in Knox County Superior Court in the case against Marc L. Merrill, 47, who is now a resident of Gorham.

Merrill was charged with six counts of possession of sexually explicit material of someone younger than 12 years old. The case began when the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit received information that led to an August 2013 search at Merrill’s home on Cedar Street in Rockland. A computer was seized by police.

Merrill was arrested at the time of the search, then indicted in February 2014. An amended indictment was issued in February 2015.

Twice, in October 2016 and March 2017, the court was unable to select a jury because so many potential jurors were excused during the vetting process.

The defense then filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the charges because of the lack of a constitutionally guaranteed speedy trial.

Merrill, who moved to Gorham after the arrest, has maintained his innocence throughout the case.

His attorney, Timothy Zerillo of Portland, said Monday his client was very pleased with the ruling and had been prepared to fight the allegations in court.

Zerillo praised Justice Billings for his review of the dismissal motion, saying sometimes a judge is reluctant to dismiss charges such as this.

The defense attorney acknowledged that it was unusual for a dismissal to be granted because of the lack of a speedy trial. But Zerillo argued that his client’s right to a fair trial was harmed by the numerous delays.

“He may not be in jail, but he has not been free since Aug. 28, 2013,” the motion to dismiss said.

Merrill had suffered tremendous stress and anxiety while the case remained pending, his attorney said last year. He said his client lived daily with fear of imprisonment and of the police.

His reputation has also been destroyed, Zerillo contended in court papers.

Billings said the most significant reason for the dismissal was the ability of Merrill to present a defense. The defense had retained a nationally recognized computer expert but he left the computer forensics field during the lengthy delays. The expert had agreed to testify for the defense for the two earlier trial attempts, but was no longer available.

Billings ruled that most of the delay was caused by the state. He pointed out that Merrill was arrested and released on bail at the time of the search of the home but was not indicted until February 2014 and evidence was not provided to the defense until June 2014, 10 months after the arrest.

The judge said while reviewing digital information is complex, a 10-month delay in providing evidence to the defense was unacceptable. He concluded that overall, 22 months of the delay was caused by the state.

Billings had ruled in May 2016 that some of the statements made by Merrill when he was interviewed by state police at the Rockland home could not be used at trial.

“The interrogation became custodial when Detective (David) Armstrong lost his temper and threatened to ‘tear this house apart,’ ” Billings ruled.

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