Bath man appealing attempted murder conviction argues he wasn’t sane
By Judy Harrison, Bangor Daily News Staff
A Bath man convicted of trying to kill a Shirley woman as she was preparing to feed animals in her barn more than three years ago claims a Superior Court justice incorrectly concluded that he was sane when he committed his crimes.
Christopher Hallowell, 27, alleges that his mental state on July 8, 2019, and his mental health history make him not responsible for his actions. Hallowell is asking the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to either overturn his convictions and release him or find him not guilty by reason of insanity and send him to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for treatment.
He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity just prior to his jury-waived trial before Justice William Anderson last summer in Piscataquis County Superior Court in Dover-Foxcroft. Hallowell initially was found not competent to stand trial in December 2020 but was found competent the following August, when his trial was held.
Hallowell had a history of psychiatric problems and believed that his relatives had mistreated his great-grandmother, according to briefs filed with the state’s highest court. The victim was married to one of Hallowell’s second cousins. Details about Hallowell’s concerns about his great-grandmother’s mistreatment are not included in court documents.
Hallowell shot and wounded and then beat the victim with the butt of a gun after using a stun gun on her at about 6:45 a.m. after he’d waited hours for her to arrive at a horse barn at North Point Farm and Garden in Shirley.
The victim, who was shot once, was taken to Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, where she was treated for injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening, though Hallowell fired at her at least eight times, according to trial testimony.
Hallowell shot at her with a .22 caliber rifle, but after it jammed, he fired a .380 caliber handgun before beating her with its butt.
The victim was able to get away from Hallowell and flag down a passing motorist, but Hallowell then fired at the vehicle and hit it at least three times.
Following the shooting, a Maine State Police trooper arrested Hallowell in Albion after a short chase.
Ellsworth attorney Maxwell Coolidge, who is handling Hallowell’s appeal, argued in his brief that Anderson did not give the proper consideration to “Mr. Hallowell’s mental abnormalities other than to comment on his anger and rigid thinking.”
“There was evidence, however, that Mr. Hallowell’s autism spectrum disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder caused much more severe symptoms than merely rigid thinking and strong emotions,” Coolidge said. “Mr. Hallowell also suffered from delusions that skewed his perception of reality. Given this evidence, a rational trier of fact could not have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hallowell acted with the necessary intent to kill [the victim].”
Mark Rucci, deputy district attorney for Piscataquis County, who did not prosecute the case, argued that Anderson properly decided the case.
“[The judge] found that the state had established that Hallowell acted intentionally in attempting to murder the victim after considering voluminous testimony from mental health professionals,” he said. “This was soundly within the court’s discretion. … This was a case where two psychiatrists reached opposite conclusions as to criminal responsibility. The court chose to credit the opinion of [the prosecution’s witness] Dr. April O’Grady, a decision which was squarely within its province as fact-finder.”
Hallowell is serving a 25-year sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren, according to the Maine Department of Corrections. Hallowell’s earliest possible release date, if he loses the appeal, is May 22, 2039.
Anderson found Hallowell guilty of attempted murder, a Class A crime; aggravated assault, a Class B crime; and three counts of reckless conduct and one count each of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, criminal mischief with a dangerous weapon and eluding an officer, all Class C crimes.
Hallowell faced up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the attempted murder charge and up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 on the aggravaed assault charge. The class C crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Sept. 8 at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.
There is no timeline for the justices to issue a decision.