Defense claims self-defense, not attempted murder in Higgins trial
Rockland — The defense team for Franklin Higgins, a Maine State Prison inmate charged with attempted murder, said their client acted in self-defense when he struck a fellow prisoner with a 29-inch pipe clamp in the industrial workshop in 2011.
The other man, Lloyd Franklin Millett, died at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor two weeks after the attack.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea told the jury March 18, using common sense and making inferences from proven facts, they will determine Higgins is guilty of the two charges of aggravated attempted murder he faces.
Zainea told jurors on May 24, 2011, when Higgins and Millett were working at the industrial shop, Higgins took a pipe clamp, walked to where Millett was working on a band saw, and struck him multiple times in the head.
"Lloyd Millett never saw the defendant coming," she said.
Zainea said video footage shows Higgins walking to Millett's work station area holding the clamp and, seconds later, leaving the scene without the clamp.
The clamp was found next to Millett.
Two witnesses in the case, both inmates who work in the shop, did nothing to stop the attack because they were afraid for their safety, Zainea said.
When Industries Supervisor Kenneth Lindsey, during a routine check, walked by Millett's work area, he said he saw Millett laying on the ground on his back, his head near the base of the band saw, which he said was still running.
He testified he saw that Millett was in pain and distress and made a "gurgling" sound. Lindsey called a code blue and "man down", signifying serious injury.
Zainea said when Millett was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center, emergency surgery was performed to relieve pressure on his brain.
The autopsy report said Millett died of heart disease and noted the skull fractures were caused by blunt force, she said.
Lindsey said Higgins was working on painting novelty items, such as bird houses and boats, and would not need a single pipe clamp to glue pieces together. He said the larger pipe clamps were used to glue furniture pieces together.
Zainea said the motive for Higgins was that Millett confronted and hit him before the attack causing Higgins to seek retribution and revenge. She later described bad blood and toxicity between the men, who also lived in the same closed unit.
Zainea said the law applies equally to the population inside and outside of the prison, even when the man murdered is incarcerated.
She said Higgins acted in an attempt to cause death and said the pieces of the puzzle, including video, photographs and witness accounts is enough the prove Higgins is guilty.
Defense attorney Philip Cohen said the burden to prove Higgins is guilty is on the prosecution, and that Higgins does not need to prove his innocence to the jury. He said this burden cannot be lowered because Higgins is a prisoner, and that he does not forfeit this protection because he is incarcerated.
No one, he said, is convicted of a crime unless the prosecution can prove it, and in this case, the evidence doesn't support the charge.
Cohen said Millett and another prisoner, Brad Chesnel, were running an extortion ring, dispatching other inmates called soldiers and using intimidation and violence to force payments from fellow inmates.
"If you didn't pay, you paid the consequences," Cohen said.
He said Millett and Chesnel turned their sights on Higgins and that Millett had threatened Higgins with scissors and later assaulted Higgins while Chesnel stood watch.
Cohen said the lead investigator wrote a letter to the warden, saying Chesnel needed to be transferred from the prison to end what was going on.
On the day Millett was injured, Cohen said Millett turned on Higgins in the shop, and Higgins, having only a split second to react, hit Millett in self-defense.
Cohen said the video doesn't show the altercation and added the incarcerated witnesses for the defense came forward to testify only after requesting transfer to their home states.
The defense doesn't deny Higgins was there, or that he hit Millett, but said the act was in self defense, and that no one can prove it wasn't.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.