Justice Michaela Murphy sits on the bench Tuesday for the first day of Dylan Ketcham’s murder trial in the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Murphy declared the case a mistrial because gruesome video footage was shown to jurors who were not asked whether such videos would impact their ability to make an impartial decision. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA  — The playing of gruesome video footage that disturbed jurors has led a judge to declare a mistrial in the murder trial of a Gardiner man accused of attacking two former friends, shooting and killing one and nearly severing the wrists of the other with a machete.

The videos, from the body cameras of Gardiner police officers as they arrived at the scene and tended to two blood-covered victims, were played in court on the first day of Dylan Ketcham’s trial on Tuesday. Jurors had not been asked, as part of the selection process, whether such videos would impact their decision-making in the case, prompting concerns that the trial would be unfair.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy declared the mistrial Wednesday morning after Ketcham’s defense lawyers moved that a mistrial be declared Tuesday afternoon.

Ketcham, 23, is facing charges of murder, attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault stemming from the January 2020 incident.

He is accused of shooting Jordan Johnson in the head and cutting and hacking at Caleb Trudeau with a machete. Johnson died days later and Trudeau was left with disabilities and potentially lifelong injuries, authorities said.

It is unclear who is at fault for the mistrial. Murphy said prosecutors did not alert the court that they would play such disturbing videos in the trial and the defense had not objected to the videos being evidence in the case. Neither side asked jurors during the selection process whether viewing such videos would impact their ability to decide, in an unbiased fashion, whether Ketcham was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


The murder trial for Dylan Ketcham, right, has been deemed a mistrial. Ketcham, seen Tuesday on the first day of proceedings, is accused of murdering and attempting to murder two of his former friends in Gardiner in January 2020. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The videos shown in court Tuesday, from the body cameras of Gardiner patrol officers Alonzo Connor and Sean Dixon, showed Trudeau covered in blood on the blood-covered porch of Lincoln Avenue resident Galen Davis, where he had crawled seeking help. Trudeau was writhing in apparent pain, saying he couldn’t breathe and that he thought he was dying and asking for water. Dixon could be heard reacting to the severe injuries to Trudeau’s wrists, and saying, “Oh my God, give me a tourniquet for his arms, his wrist is about to fall off.”

The footage also showed police discovering Johnson — face down, unconscious and motionless in the snow — and briefly rolling him over, exposing his bloody face.

Murphy said in court Wednesday she could see some jurors “were visibly disturbed and shaken by the playing of these videos, of real-time evidence that was very different from what we usually see in courtrooms.” The footage shown totaled between 16 and 18 minutes.

She added, later, “there were no questions asked of jurors” about their potential reaction to seeing blood-filled videos. “In retrospect, that should have been asked of these jurors before they were selected.”

Murphy said the case would be rescheduled for a new trial as soon as possible.

Prosecutors Meg Elam and Leanne Robbin, state assistant attorneys general, initially opposed the defense’s motion to declare a mistrial, but later changed their position and agreed to not oppose the declaration.


Elam approached family members of the victims after the mistrial was declared, saying, to them, “I’m so sorry.”

A spokesperson for the Office of the Maine Attorney General said Wednesday the office had no comment on the mistrial being declared.

Family members of the victims, in court for the trial, declined to comment.

Murphy told Ketcham, who had not previously spoken at the trial, that he had the right to move forward with the trial, if he wished, despite his lawyers’ motion for a mistrial. She asked him Wednesday if he still wanted the court to declare a mistrial.

“Yes, your honor,” Ketcham replied.

Ketcham has been in jail awaiting trial, and remained in custody Wednesday following the conclusion of the trial.


Murphy said it was understandable that, for some jurors, seeing the videos could affect their decision in the case.

She said when the trial restarts, it will be important to make sure the jury is prepared for whatever evidence is shown in the trial.

Steve Smith, one of two defense lawyers for Ketcham, declined to comment Wednesday.

In court Tuesday, Ketcham’s other defense attorney, Ian L’Heureux, said Ketcham feared for his life after Johnson accused him of stealing his mother’s bike. Johnson had threatened to beat Ketcham with a baseball bat. And Ketcham was prepared to defend himself when Johnson and Trudeau ambushed him just after midnight on Jan. 25, 2020.

Elam said Tuesday that Ketcham and Johnson had exchanged text messages in the days and hours leading up to the confrontation, and Ketcham had prepared, for days in advance, to kill Johnson. He stole a handgun from his sister, fashioned a sheath inside his Carhartt-like coat in which he hid a machete and duct taped the treads of his boots, apparently to try to avoid leaving tracks.

She said Johnson, who was 22 at the time, agreed to meet Ketcham to settle a dispute near Quimby Field, a location chosen by Ketcham. When Ketcham arrived in the neighborhood, he was approached not just by Johnson but also the 21-year-old Trudeau. All three men were from Gardiner.

A confrontation ensued, in which Ketcham shot Johnson in the head. And then, Elam said, after Trudeau tried to wrestle the gun away from him, he reached into his coat and pulled out the hidden machete and used it to hack at Trudeau. Ketcham managed to get on top of Trudeau, slicing him with the machete on his head and multiple times on his arms.

Trudeau and Johnson were both unarmed that night, according to the assistant attorney general.

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