PARIS — A jury left the Oxford County Superior Court without reaching a verdict Monday in the murder trial of 23-year-old Agostino Samson, charged with killing his former employer last winter in Bethel.
The eight women and four men discussed the case of the Windham man for an hour and 40 minutes, after hearing the final defense witnesses and closing arguments. Shortly before 4 p.m., the jury requested that the testimony of Alicia Wilcox, a latent print examiner with the Maine State Police Crime Lab, be read back by the court reporter. However, Justice Andrew Horton requested that the jury resume deliberations with the reading on Tuesday morning.
Samson is accused of killing 25-year-old Scott Libby of Raymond last February in Bethel. Libby, who employed Samson at his landscaping business in 2008, was found dead after his vehicle was driven onto the railroad tracks in Bethel and struck by a train at about 2:45 a.m. on Feb. 20. An autopsy determined that Libby died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck inconsistent with the collision, as well as possible strangulation.
In his closing argument, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said Samson was the only person in the Bethel area who Libby knew. Benson said Libby met with Samson in the hours before his body was found to return a watch and bracelet he'd taken from Samson as collateral for a loan.
Benson said a small amount of Libby's blood had been found on the watch, and bloodstains with Libby's DNA were also found on the hostel's entrance doors near one of Samson's fingerprints, which appeared to have been deposited in blood. He said a bloodstained alcohol swab found in the hostel's garbage also tested positive for Libby's DNA and a second DNA profile consistent with Samson.
Benson also argued that the Barker Road crossing, where Libby's car was driven onto the tracks, and an area on the Westwood Road where bloodstains and items from Libby's car were found are both located a short distance from the Bethel Hostel where Samson was living at the time. Benson said Samson's father formerly lived on Route 2 near Barker Road, and would have been familiar with the crossing.
"The evidence in this case, ladies and gentlemen, is absolutely overwhelming," Benson said.
He added that it was unlikely that another person could have committed the murder and left the same type of evidence.
Defense lawyer Maurice Porter rested his case after calling three Maine State Police detectives and a trooper to the stand. Samson told Justice Horton that he had decided not to testify on his own behalf, and Horton later instructed the jury that the decision should not influence their verdict.
Detective Lucas Hare said he contacted approximately 20 people who were staying at the hostel at the time of the murder, but did not do any interviews in person. When questioned by Benson, Hare said he contacted police agencies in Rhode Island and New Jersey during the investigation but did not develop any leads.
Detective Herbert Leighton, the lead investigator in the case, was called back to the stand for the fourth time. He testified that one other hostel employee, besides the manager, was interviewed about a week before trial, and that he did not ask if there were any other employees who worked there.
In his closing argument, Porter said the state had not proved Samson's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He also accused the Maine State Police of conducting a "myopic" and "shoddy" investigation.
"The state promised overwhelming proof, and they have not delivered," he said. "Why would A.J. kill his friend and employee when everybody knew they were meeting?"
Porter said there was no proof that Samson left the hn the evening of Feb. 19 or early morning of Feb. 20. He said police did not find any DNA evidence related to Samson in Libby's car, and failed to pursue two unknown DNA profiles inconsistent with Samson that were found in the car.
Porter also said police did not investigate Libby's acquaintances in the Boston area, where he worked as a bartender on weekends, and did look at Libby's bank records or the phone records of other people he spoke with on Feb. 19. He said the unknown partial DNA profile on the alcohol swab could fit thousands of people, and that test on the watch and fingerprint could not confirm the presence of blood.
"When their science didn't match their facts, they found a way around it," Porter said.
Benson, in a brief rebuttal, said that examiners were able to confirm the presence of Libby's DNA in the small speck of red-brown debris on the watch.