The Maine Supreme Judicial Court overturned a murder sentence because a judge spoke about whether the defendant’s decision to go to trial reflected on whether he held remorse.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson’s comments about his sentencing “conundrum” represented a snag because defendants are not supposed to be punished for exercising their constitutional right to a trial, the state’s supreme court said.

The judge imposed a sentence of 32 years – beyond the basic sentence of 25 years – based on aggravating factors, including lack of remorse.

The defendant in the case, Rayshaun Moore, was convicted of fatally stabbing a man outside a nightclub in Bangor in 2020.

Anderson said he intended to be conservative about using remorse as a factor, but “this is of no import because any increase in Moore’s sentence for that reason is improper,” Justice Catherine Connors wrote in the unanimous decision released last week.

“A fair reading of these remarks suggests that the sentencing court was – or might have been – influenced by Moore’s decision to stand trial,” she wrote.


In legal circles, the scenario of a judge punishing a defendant for failure to express remorse or accept responsibility by opting for a trial instead of pleading guilty is known as the “trial penalty.”

But judges rarely speak openly about it the way this judge did, said attorney Rory McNamara, who brought the appeal.

“I think it’s a common practice. The problem is it’s very easy for a judge to hide the fact that they’re penalizing a defendant for a trial,” he said.

McNamara said it’s easy to envision that the trial penalty might be even greater for current defendants because judges are dealing with extensive backlogs because of the pandemic.

Moore’s conviction remains in place, and he will remain in prison while awaiting a new sentence hearing.


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