Convicted murderer Anthony Sanborn to go free after serving 27 years

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Anthony Sanborn sits in court while his attorney Amy Fairfield looks over paperwork at the Cumberland County Courthouse on the first day of Sanborn’s post-conviction review on Tuesday. 

PORTLAND — Convicted murderer Anthony Sanborn will go free, after serving 27 years in prison for the 1989 murder of 16-year-old Jessica Briggs.

Attorneys for the state and for Sanborn reached a deal Wednesday in which his 70-year sentence has been vacated for the time he has already served.

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Sanborn, who has maintained his innocence, sought a post-conviction hearing to show that prosecutors and law enforcement officials secured his conviction through deceit, coercion and threats against witnesses, and that authorities withheld evidence that would have been helpful to his defense.

Sanborn, who spent nearly 30 years in prison, was freed on bail on April 13, after the only eyewitness to the murder recanted her testimony. Sanborn is the first person convicted of murder in recent state history to be released on bail because of questions about the legitimacy of his conviction.

The post-conviction hearing had been going on for nearly three weeks before it was unexpectedly paused Wednesday morning as attorneys for both sides appeared to conference with one another, without the judge.

Justice Joyce Wheeler had ordered the proceeding to begin early, at 8:30 a.m., but by 9:05 a.m., Wheeler had not taken the bench and Assistant Attorneys General Meg Elam and Paul Rucha were holed up in a conference room next to courtroom eight with Sanborn’s attorneys, Amy Fairfield and Timothy Zerillo.

Before disappearing again to resume her meeting, Elam spoke briefly with the victim-witness advocate who has spent every minute of the hearings at the side of Briggs’ stepmother, who has sat silently throughout the 21 days of testimony heard so far.

Elam and Rucha then spoke with the judge privately — an unusual move, as every prior conference with Wheeler had included attorneys for both sides –– before returning to the conference room outside the courtroom.

Attorneys for both sides re-entered the court about 10:20 a.m. before disappearing backstage to meet with Wheeler. After 45 minutes of private discussions with the judge, which included a court reporter, an officer announced that court would return to session at 2 p.m.

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