Diana appeal rejected by Maine Supreme Court
Portland — The Maine Supreme Court affirmed March 20 the 2012 judgement and sentence of convicted murderer Arnold Diana, although he argued in an appeal his sentence was improperly imposed.
Diana, of Rockland, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the 2010 murder of his former girlfriend, 47-year-old Katrina Windred of Friendship. He was convicted of the crime in October 2012.
The high court found Knox County Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm did not double count the impact the murder would have on Windred's son, who was 11 at the time, in his reasoning for imposing a 45-year sentence.
The court ruled Hjelm properly separated the objective fact that Diana involved the boy in the crime, when assessing the manner in which the crime was committed, from the subjective impact, namely the ongoing trauma Windred's son will suffer as a result of the murder.
During oral arguments at the Maine Supreme Court Feb. 11, defense attorney Jeremy Pratt argued the conviction should be overturned, and further contends the sentence of 45 years exceeds the standard rate applied to domestic violence murders.
The Supreme Court said it is a popular, but mistaken belief the state statute requires the court to consider comparable sentences as part of the sentencing guide.
Former defense attorney for Diana, Christopher MacLean of Camden filed the appeal in November 2012. Pratt took over Diana's defense and argued before the justices of the high court in Portland.
Following oral arguments in February, Pratt said he focused on two aspects of the trial, that Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, during sentencing double counted that the victim's son was present at the time of the murder during the two-step analysis to reach a sentence, and the length of the sentence, which is 10 years more than similar cases. Pratt said this includes the conviction of Arline Lawless of Waldoboro who shot and killed her boyfriend Norman Benner of Friendship. Lawless was sentenced to 35 years in prison in August 2013 for the crime.
Diana argued there were errors in the 2012 trial and sentencing.
Those errors include denying his motion to suppress the evidence resulting from three searches of his residence by law enforcement officers, allowing a prospective juror who was once a victim of domestic violence to serve on the jury, denying his motions to exclude certain physical evidence and failing to exclude expert and non-expert testimony concerning the significance of that evidence, and setting his basic sentence at 40 years before arriving at a final sentence of 45 years.
The court found the searches of Diana's residence where justified, and that the court properly followed procedures when a juror's impartiality is questioned. Because somebody was the victim of a crime, does not disqualify them from serving on a jury, the order said.
In the written appeal, MacLean argues the judge, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, when determining the length of the sentence, should not have taken into consideration that the victim's child was present around the time of the murder.
During the early evening of Nov. 20, 2010, Windred drove to Diana’s apartment building, the Thorndike Apartments, with her son. She entered the building and went to Diana’s apartment while her son remained outside in the car.
A dispute flared up between Diana and Windred, and she died by strangulation during a brief altercation, said the affidavit. Diana then brought Windred’s son to the apartment, explained that his mother had taken a nap. After the boy went to sleep that night, Diana removed Windred's body from the apartment.
During the sentencing part of the trial, Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm set the basic period of incarceration at 40 years, according to the affidavit. Hjelm relied on a 2010 case, State v. Waterman, in which the earlier court considered as part of its basic sentence analysis that the defendant placed his three children in danger by having them in his car at the time of the shooting.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401, ext. 118, or via email at email@example.com.
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.