Black case remains on hold until high court decision

Appeal centers around medical records admissability in court
By Juliette Laaka | Mar 28, 2014
Photo by: File photo Charles Black's trial for attempted murder is on hold pending a Maine Supreme Court decision on Black's appeal of allowing more than 500 pages of medical records to be used in court.

Charles Black, the Camden man accused of pushing his then-wife off Maiden's Cliff in an attempt to kill her, will not face a trial until a Maine Supreme Court decision is issued on whether to allow his medical records to be used during the trial.

Black's attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, filed an appeal in Maine Supreme Judicial Court in November 2012, contesting a ruling that denied the defendant's right to suppress his medical history. Black was hospitalized and more than 500 pages of medical records were seized in a search warrant, which is the basis for the appeal.

Black and his former wife divorced in September 2012.

The Maine Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in November and have not issued a ruling. McKee said he does not know when the court will reach a decision.

Black was initially charged with aggravated assault and is accused of striking his wife in the head with a rock, dragging her body to the edge of Maiden Cliff and pushing her over while the two were hiking in Camden Hills State Park, according to court documents. In July 2011, he was indicted by the grand jury for six criminal offenses, including attempted murder, arising from the alleged incident.

Black has denied the allegations and told police he had passed out and hit her head with his when he fell, according to the police affidavit.

Black's former wife was injured, but managed to climb down the mountain to get help and was hospitalized for several days. The initial aggravated assault charge against her husband came after she filed for a protection from abuse order against Black in which she claimed he tried to kill her.

In an affidavit filed in court by police, the wife said there were several other incidents involving her husband that made her feel as if he had been trying to kill her. According to the affidavit, a couple of weeks prior to the Maiden Cliff incident, Black climbed a ladder to the attic and, while she was at the bottom of the ladder, he fell down on top of her. Black told his wife he passed out, according to the court documents.

She also told a detective she inherited $4 million when her father died, and Black had been taking her money without her permission, according to the affidavit. She also told the detective her husband contacted an old girlfriend in Arizona and the two had been having an online affair. Police were also told the two had been having marital problems and had been to counseling.

McKee argued in Knox County Superior Court the prosecution obtained the medical records of his client illegally. Knox County Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm denied McKee's motion to dismiss and to suppress Black's criminal charges.

In March 2012, the prosecution sought and obtained a search warrant for all medical records from the week-long hospitalization of the defendant at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, when he was treated for injuries he reportedly sustained during the episode, Hjelm wrote.

The state obtained the records and produced copies for the defense as discovery.

McKee then moved to dismiss the pending charges, or alternatively, to suppress that evidence owing to the state’s acquisition of the medical records. He contended the state obtained the protected records through an improper procedure and the warrant application did not support probable cause.

For the restriction pertaining to his review, Hjelm pointed out that during a hearing in September 2012, the prosecutor said the only person in his office who may have reviewed the records is a prosecutorial assistant. None of the prosecutors have read the medical records, Hjelm was told.

“If and when the prosecutor in the case reads the medical records, then the injury alleged by the defendant will result and cannot be reversed,” Hjelm wrote.

Hjelm ordered that the prosecution was to refrain from reading the medical evidence for 10 days from the date of the order.

McKee said March 28 the documents are sealed.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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Juliette Laaka
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.

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