The lawyer for a former Fairfield man convicted of murdering his wife is arguing that her Facebook messages should not have been used as evidence at his trial.

Luc Tieman looks at the jury while giving his closing argument in his own trial in April for the murder of his wife, Valerie Tieman. Jurors in Somerset County Superior Court found him guilty, and he is now appealing. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

A jury took less than an hour to find Luc Tieman guilty last year. His wife, 34-year-old Valerie Tieman, was shot twice in the head and neck in 2016. Investigators found her body buried behind her husband’s parents’ home in Fairfield. The items in the grave included a note that began “To my one and only Joy-Joy. Flower. Forever.” It included an apparent reference to Luc Tieman’s pet name “Luc-e the Bear” or “Luc-e Da Bear.”

Tieman, 35, has appealed his conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Oral arguments took place Tuesday at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. The majority of the debate centered on a series of Facebook messages between Valerie Tieman and a woman who told her that Luc Tieman was having an affair. The conversation included messages sent from Valerie Tieman’s Facebook account after her estimated time of death.

The prosecutor said Tuesday that she believes Luc Tieman sent the messages. However, his lawyer, Clifford Strike, said the state could not prove who wrote the messages and therefore the court should not have admitted them at trial.

“It goes exactly to the issue of, if not in this case, in future cases, what can we do, how do we know who’s at the typewriter?” Strike said. “We don’t.”

But Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said the messages were only a fraction of the evidence against Luc Tieman. She also noted the woman on the other end of the conversation testified at trial and verified the content of the messages.

“There was a mountain of evidence to demonstrate that Luc Tieman murdered his wife, Valerie, on the evening of Aug., 25, 2016,” Robbin said. “Luc Tieman takes issue on appeal with just one.” The justices asked Strike about the overwhelming case against his client.

“We’re talking about a very small piece of the evidence that was entered against Mr. Tieman,” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said. “There was substantial evidence that he was involved in her death, not the least of which is a very specific note for her from him and a number of other items buried with her and his admission that he buried her. All of that evidence is much more substantial than a conversation about infidelity on a Facebook page. Why is that not entirely harmless error?”

Strike conceded that could be the case, but maintained the messages shouldn’t have been admitted as evidence.

“We don’t know what effect it may or may not have had on the jurors,” Strike said.

“We have testimony of Mr. Tieman that he buried his wife’s body and neglected to notice that she had gunshot wounds to her head and neck,” Associate Justice Ellen Gorman said. “I respectfully suggest that may have had more of an effect on the jurors than a Facebook message.”

Luc Tieman initially told police his wife had disappeared from his pickup truck outside Walmart, but later said she died of a drug overdose. He delivered his own closing arguments during his April trial in Somerset County.

“The state is accusing me of murdering my beautiful wife, Valerie Tieman, which I didn’t do,” Tieman told the jury. “It would have helped if they could show a motive.”

Tieman did not attend the hearing Tuesday. After the trial last April, Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen sentenced Luc Tieman to 55 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

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