Defense attorney Pamela Ames speaks on behalf of her client, Richard Murray-Burns, seated, during a January 2020 court hearing in Skowhegan. Murray-Burns was later sentenced to decades in prison for a shootout with police that left an officer wounded. But the sentence has been deemed invalid because of a judge’s error and the sentencing process must begin anew. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

PORTLAND — The state’s highest court is determining how to rectify a judge’s error in the sentencing of a Hartland man who was convicted of twice wounding a Waterville police officer and firing on other officers as he fled from them in 2019.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, heard arguments this week in an appeal by Richard Murray-Burns of his sentence imposed by a judge in a Skowhegan courtroom in March.

Murray-Burns was sentenced in court to 225 years in prison with all but 30 years suspended, and with 20 years of probation, but Judge Bruce Mallonee erred by not properly justifying or explaining the sentence.

Prosecutors agree with Murray-Burns’ attorney, Rory McNamara, that his sentence must be corrected, but they disagree on what the next steps should be and how the high court is allowed to change the sentence.

McNamara said during arguments Wednesday that the court can remand the case back to the lower court for sentencing and provide instructions on what is an acceptable term.

“It’s a bit of a strange procedural position,” McNamara said. “Everyone agrees it needs to be sent back, it’s just a matter of what the arguments will look like at the new sentencing.”


The error comes from the way Mallonee ordered the prison term. The judge said at the sentencing hearing that he wanted a longer term of probation, prompting him to create five counts of back-to-back 45-year sentences, each with four years’ probation — resulting in the 20-year probationary period Murray-Burns was given.

While judges can order consecutive prison terms, they have to “make appropriate findings with record support,” essentially meaning that they have to justify why a crime is severe enough to warrant a longer sentence, according to briefs filed as part of the appeal.

Mallonee did not make that justification at the sentencing, meaning the entire sentence is invalid. Attempts to reach the judge Friday for comment were unsuccessful.

Francis Griffin, first assistant district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, argued before the Law Court this week that the court could not make a decision until a legal sentence was agreed on by a lower court — and that sentence could then be appealed back to the Law Court.

“Logically speaking, this sentence has to be a legal sentence before it comes before this court as a sentencing review panel, and that isn’t before the court today,” Griffin said.

When it comes time to change Murray-Burns’ sentence, it cannot be more severe than the original, but the two sides disagree on what exactly that means. Griffin said that he would ask for the sentence to be 60 years, no time suspended and no probation, which would be less severe than the original 225-year sentence.


McNamara argued that Murray-Burns should not have to serve more jail time than the original sentence, and that the new sentence should be 45 years, all but 30 suspended, with four years’ probation.

The high court is considering the arguments and may issue an opinion, dismiss the matter or take some other action, but it could be months before that decision is announced.

Murray-Burns was involved in a police chase and shootout that began in Waterville.

He was driving a Honda Civic on Dec. 22, 2019, when he was stopped by police based on a report of shoplifting at the Walmart in Waterville. Murray-Burns was outfitted with an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle with a 60-round magazine, a .45-caliber pistol, a loaded clip for the pistol and a plate carrier — which District Attorney Maeghan Maloney previously described as “heavy-duty body armor that can withstand a high velocity rifle round” and is “far stronger” than what police officers wear.

Murray-Burns fled the officer, leading police on a 15-mile chase where multiple rounds were fired at pursuing officers. Timothy Hinton, the Waterville officer who initially stopped Murray-Burns, pursued him as he fled and in the chase was shot twice, once in each forearm. His patrol vehicle was struck by gunfire 16 times.

At times during the chase, Murray-Burns seemed to stop and wait for officers to arrive and ambush them with gunfire, Maloney said at the sentencing. The shootout ended roughly 20 minutes later in Canaan.

Murray-Burns was shot multiple times and was taken to a hospital where tests found that he had fentanyl and benzodiazepines in his system. He acknowledged that he was on LSD at the time and was struggling with his mental health.

“I know what I have done is serious,” Murray-Burns said at sentencing. “It’s no excuse. I’m not here to make excuses. This did not come from a place of hate, but a place of confusion and delusion.”

He pleaded guilty to 10 counts of aggravated attempted assault, and single counts of failure to stop for an officer, theft by unauthorized taking and robbery.

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