Homicides

The Office of the Attorney General has exclusive responsibility for the prosecution of homicide cases statewide. The Homicide Unit is part of the Criminal Division of the Office of the Attorney General.

The Assistant Attorneys General of the Homicide Unit respond to all homicides and advise the law enforcement agencies that conduct investigations. The Maine State Police, Portland Police Department and Bangor Police Department investigate homicides. The prosecutors work closely with those departments and with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner throughout the investigation and through trial. The Office of the Attorney General also handles any appeals taken from homicide convictions. Prosecutors also work with law enforcement and the Medical Examiner on unsolved homicides.

Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel

This panel is established by the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse. It is chaired by an Assistant Attorney General, who is also a homicide prosecutor. Members of the Panel include the Chief Medical Examiner, a physician, a nurse, a law enforcement officer, the Commissioners of Corrections and Public Safety, a judge, a prosecutor, an Assistant Attorney General who handles child protection cases, a victim-witness advocate, a mental health service provider, a facilitator of a batterers' intervention program, and persons designated by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. The Panel reviews homicides cases where the victim has been killed by a family or household member. The Panel recommends methods of improving systems for protecting persons from domestic and sexual abuse, including modifications of laws, policies and procedures.

Frequently Asked Questions

A member of my family was murdered. The system is confusing, and I am overwhelmed. Does your office provide help?

The Victim/Witness Services Program is a part of the Criminal Division. The Director of the Criminal Division supervises this program. There are two full time Victim Witness Advocates: Michelle Cram and Laura Gallant. They can be reached at 626-8800. The primary objective of this program is to provide easy access to information regarding the criminal justice process to families of homicide survivors and witnesses. Victim/Witness advocates provide support and understanding to homicide survivors and ensure that victims' rights are respected.

Victim/Witness Advocates provide the following services: Death Notification; Counseling referrals

Court Advocacy-Advocates prepare witnesses for trial and provide information about the criminal justice system. An advocate can provide pretrial courtroom tours, and accompany and support homicide survivors throughout the court process.

Status notification-Advocates keep homicide survivors informed of the status of cases and court dates.

Victim Impact Statements-Advocates can help victims and survivors prepare a statement to present to the court on the impact the crime has had on the survivor and the family.

Victims' Compensation-Advocates can provide information regarding reimbursement for homicide survivors relating to certain expenses and losses.

Notification of Release-Advocates will help survivors file applications with the Department of Corrections.

If you are a homicide survivor or a victim of a violent crime, you may be eligible for financial help. The Victim/Witness Advocate will provide you with information relating to the Maine Victims' Compensation Program.

What is the role of the Medical Examiner in Homicide Cases?

A forensic pathologist performs an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death, and issues a death certificate, which is filed with the clerk of the municipality in which the death occurred. The cause of death is the medical reason for the death. The manner of death is classified as accident, suicide, homicidal, natural, or undetermined. As part of the autopsy, toxicology and other studies are often ordered. Depending on the status of the police investigation and whether or not toxicology or other tests are needed, the final death certificate and the completed Medical Examiner's report may be delayed. The medical examiner's report and the autopsy report are public records and as such must be released to the public on request. One exception to that occurs in homicide cases. When the Office of the Attorney General is investigating a homicide, it can order the case "withheld" until such time as the investigation and trial have been completed. The medical examiner may visit the scene of death or not, depending on the circumstances, and is always available to testify in homicide cases. Medical examiners must be licensed to practice medicine in Maine and are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Chief Medical Examiner.

Is the State doing anything about unsolved homicides?

Being a survivor of a homicide is an incredibly agonizing experience. Being a survivor of an unsolved homicide is excruciating. Not knowing who is responsible for such a horrendous crime is more than a person should endure. Maine's unsolved murders are considered open files and are still under investigation. Maine has no statute of limitations for murder. Detectives meet regularly with prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General to review the status of unsolved cases, and have successfully solved several murders with the help of forensic techniques (such as DNA matching) not widely available at the time the crimes were committed.

When will the trial be scheduled?

The court is responsible for scheduling trials. The court will schedule a case on a trial list in the Superior Court after all pre-trial motions are decided. It may take as long as one year from the time of indictment until a case is scheduled for trial. How will I know of the sentenced person's release from prison? After the defendant is convicted and sentenced to the Department of Corrections, a homicide survivor will be provided with a "Notification of Release" form. If this form is submitted to the Department of Corrections, you will receive notice of the defendant's release from custody. Notification of release includes notification of furloughs and work-release. The Victim-Witness Advocate can help you complete and submit the form.