Court urged to reject third trial for Thongsavanh

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We realize the wheels of justice grind slowly, but granting a third murder trial to Brandon Thongsavanh would itself be a travesty of justice.

It’s now been four years since Thongsavanh stabbed Morgan McDuffee five times, including once in the heart, in a street brawl. And last week, new lawyers for Thongsavanh filed a lengthy brief with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court appealing his conviction of depraved-indifference murder.

Thongsavanh’s first conviction was overturned because prosecutors mentioned a T-shirt Thongsavanh wore bearing a vulgar religious reference. Whatever. So, a second trial was conducted and he was convicted again.

This time, the defense lawyers have even less plausible grounds for appeal.

First, they say the jury should have been given the option of considering him guilty of criminally negligent manslaughter, a lesser offense. That’s absurd. Testimony showed that Thongsavanh had been itching all night to use his knife. When he finally got an opportunity, he plunged it into his victim five times. There was nothing negligent about his intentions.

The defense also argues that the law defining depraved indifference is vague , and the offense lacked the heinous elements of rape or torture that has been evident in other such cases. They said the case falls in the “low-to-medium-range of seriousness” for murders, calling it “routine.”

Of course, the “routine” nature of this case might be hard to explain to McDuffee’s mother, brother, fianc and friends. And, clearly, the second jury was also unconvinced of that.

Again, testimony showed that this was a crazed, motiveless attack. Thongsavanh wasn’t even involved in the original exchange of insults between the students and the local men. He arrived a bit later, hopped out of a car, ran to McDuffee and stabbed him five times.

Twice now, Thongsavanh has had his day in court. And, twice he has been convicted of murder.

Conventional legal wisdom says that trials become more difficult as time passes. Witnesses are unavailable and memories become cloudy. Plus, there is the mounting cost to taxpayers of multiple trials.

Of course, none of that would matter if new evidence had been discovered or, perhaps, a DNA test somehow proved Thongsavanh innocent.

But that is not the case. We hope the Law Court will deny this motion and spare this community and the McDuffee family the pain of another trial.

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