Man appeals conviction in 1994 Bridgton murder

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The man convicted of a brutal 1994 Bridgton murder is appealing his case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, claiming that a life sentence was incorrectly imposed.

After the case of Crystal Perry’s murder went unsolved for many years, Michael Hutchinson was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison in the spring and summer of 2007. His attorney, Robert Andrews, is now arguing the life sentence violates Hutchinson’s rights because Justice Thomas Warren took into account sexual assault not proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from Andrews and Assistant State Attorney General Donald Macomber Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Portland.

During the sentencing of Hutchinson in August 2007, Warren cited the brutality of the crime, including sexual assault, impact on the victim’s family and the fact that Hutchinson never took responsibility for his actions as reasons for giving him the maximum penalty allowed by law.

“I do find that the nature and seriousness of this offense is extremely serious,” Warren said. “If Mr. Hutchinson were pleading guilty here, I would not be imposing the kind of sentence I’m imposing.”

Andrews had requested a 40-year sentence for Hutchinson, who was 32 years old at the time of sentencing and 19 at the time of the murder. The judge could have given Hutchinson a sentence ranging from 25 years to life in prison.

Crystal Perry was 30 years old when she was killed in her Bridgton home on Route 93 in the early morning of May 12, 1994. Her daughter, Sarah Perry, 12 years old at the time, testified at Hutchinson’s trial that she woke up that morning to hear her mother screaming and then heard the attacker get a knife out of the kitchen drawer and stab her mother.

When she emerged from her bedroom, she saw her mother dying on the floor with 50 stab wounds. Because the phones were not working, Sarah Perry ran down the road for help.

The case was unsolved for 12 years before Hutchinson was indicted in 2006. DNA samples were taken after he was convicted for criminal threatening in 2003, and Hutchinson was found to be a match with blood and semen found in Perry’s house the night of the crime.

When interviewed by police, Hutchinson denied knowing Perry or ever being to her house. At his trial, he testified that he did know her and was at her house the night of her murder. Hutchinson said they had consensual sex before a man burst into the house and attacked both of them. Hutchinson said he fled the scene and never told anyone what he had seen.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Crystal Perry was sexually assaulted before she was murdered, though they did not charge Hutchinson with that crime because the statute of limitations had run out.

Warren’s use of the sexual assault as a reason for sentencing Hutchinson to life in prison is one of the decisions disputed by Hutchinson’s lawyer. In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, Andrews wrote that the life sentence imposed on his client violates his Sixth Amendment rights, which ensures his right to a speedy and public trial in all criminal prosecutions.

Andrews also argued that the court misapplied the sentencing principle of degree, which requires that life sentences be given for only the most egregious crimes. Additionally, Andrews maintained that the court incorrectly excluded evidence of an alternative suspect, who Hutchinson testified to seeing. The collection of his DNA also violated Hutchinson’s rights, Andrews wrote, having previously filed a motion to ban the DNA test from the evidence that was denied by Warren.

In a brief filed in November, Laura Yustak Smith, assistant attorney general, contended that the court did not violate Hutchinson’s Sixth Amendment rights or misapply his sentence, did not abuse discretion by rejecting an alternative suspect and properly denied Hutchinson’s motion to suppress the results of the DNA test.

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