Foster Bates, who was convicted of murder in 2002 for the death of Tammy Dickson, takes the stand in July at a post-conviction review hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A judge has denied the latest request for a new trial from a man who has spent more than 20 years in prison for the death of his neighbor.

Foster Bates was convicted in 2002 of the murder and rape of Tammy Dickson in 1994. The two were neighbors in an apartment building in South Portland. Bates testified during his trial in 2001 that the two were having an affair.

Tammy Dickson

Bates has maintained his innocence and filed numerous requests and appeals for a new trial.

Cumberland County Superior Justice Thomas McKeon agreed to give Bates a rare two-day hearing in July to consider evidence that wasn’t presented at trial. Normally, a judge wouldn’t allow this, but McKeon agreed to hear the case after finding Bates had ineffective counsel in 2016 when his lawyer failed to promptly file a request for a new trial when new witnesses came forward.

But McKeon ruled Tuesday that the evidence Bates presented this summer was not strong enough to merit a new trial. It’s not clear if Bates will appeal the ruling to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber declined through a spokesperson to comment on the ruling.


Tina Nadeau, Bates’ attorney, said she and co-counsel Rory McNamara were disappointed by the decision. She said he’s been incarcerated since August 2001 for crimes he didn’t commit.

“Over the past 30 years, memories have faded, witnesses have died, evidence has degraded or been lost, and so much more has happened that is interfering with Foster’s ability to finally establish his innocence,” Nadeau wrote in an email Wednesday. “To date, no court has evaluated the strength of the newly developed DNA evidence – evidence that conclusively excludes Foster as a contributor of DNA on the murder weapon – in the context of the evidence produced at trial. We sincerely believe that this evidence would undermine any finding of guilty by a reasonable jury.”

The evidence McKeon heard included testimony from the two witnesses Bates said he learned about in 2016. He believed they would point to another suspect and testify that he wasn’t in Dickson’s apartment when she died. But their testimony in July was inconsistent with what they previously said to investigators and in court hearings, and did little to support his claims of innocence.

Shawna Poulin recanted earlier testimony and police interviews during which she said she overheard another suspect, Michael Bridges, confess to the homicide. Poulin told McKeon in July that she never actually heard this and that her aunt had urged her to implicate Bridges.

Amanda Indigo, who was a teenager at the time of the killing, also admitted this summer that she had lied under oath in 2016.

Indigo previously testified that she was in Dickson’s apartment that night and said it was clear to her that Bates and Dickson had just had sex. She said she saw Bates leave the apartment while Dickson was still alive.


But at the July hearing, Indigo was emotional and asked at least twice if she could leave. She said she had been “in institutions” around the time of Dickson’s murder and afterward. She testified that her earlier statements about Bates and Dickson having sex were “dishonest and not true,” McKeon wrote in his ruling. And she was unclear about whether she actually had seen Bates go in Dickson’s apartment.

McKeon ultimately ruled that she was unreliable.

“The court generally found that Indigo’s testimony was not connected to a memory she had. Her demeanor and comments caused the court to find her not credible,” the judge wrote.

McKeon also had agreed to consider a new analysis of DNA evidence, which Bates has argued supports his innocence. He has tried to suggest for years that another man killed Dickson and started pointing to DNA found on a green sock that had been stuffed in Dickson’s mouth.

Forensics analysts found male DNA on the sock in 2016, but none of it matched Bates. He had tried to use the sock to lobby for a new trial during a previous post-conviction review that was ultimately rejected.

McKeon agreed to hear new expert testimony about the results.

Heather Coyle, who has worked in a forensic lab and teaches DNA testing at the University of New Haven, testified in July that there was no DNA evidence tying Bates to the scene. She also challenged evidence from Bates’ 2002 investigation, criticizing investigators’ findings that Dickson’s killer also had raped her.

McKeon found Coyle’s testimony didn’t compel a new trial – the only new thing she offered was a “newly developed opinion on evidence that has already been heard,” McKeon wrote. He said state laws for new evidence require more.

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