Judge denies motions in Lowe manslaughter case; jury trial expected

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PARIS — A judge denied several motions to exclude the state’s evidence in the manslaughter trial of a woman charged in a fatal crash in West Paris in 2012, following a hearing in Oxford County Superior Court on Thursday.

Kristina Lowe, 20, of West Paris is charged with two counts of manslaughter, two counts of operating under the influence causing death and one count of aggravated leaving the scene of an accident.

Prosecutors say Lowe was the driver in a January 2012 car crash that killed passengers Rebecca Mason, 16, of West Paris and Logan Dam, 19, of Norway. Lowe is accused of being drunk and texting on a cellphone at a time of the crash. 

Justice Robert Clifford on Thursday denied motions to exclude evidence that Lowe was distracted while driving and cellphone records and denied a motion to exclude or redact an accident reconstruction report from Maine State Police. 

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His orders mean the state may present its evidence to a trial jury.

Motions to exclude evidence that Lowe had been drinking and to move the case to a jurisdiction outside Oxford County are still pending.

“Based on what we saw this morning, it seems as though this case is going to trial,” Lowe’s lawyer, James Howaniec, said in an interview Thursday. The parties are working with superior court clerks to block out as many as three weeks for a trial, at which more than 60 witnesses may be called, Howaniec said.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor did not respond to a request for comment because it is an ongoing criminal case.

The motions were filed in December in an effort to remove the state’s remaining evidence against Lowe. In October, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld an appeal to suppress statements Lowe made to a Maine State Police investigator while she was in a Portland hospital recovering from crash-related injuries.

A motion to exclude Jarrold Mason, Rebecca Mason’s father, from the courtroom at a trial was also denied by Clifford.

In his motion, Howaniec argued that Jarrold Mason made an outburst during a previous court hearing and Lowe is intimated and fearful of him. Clifford noted that court marshals are aware of the issue and will address it in the case of a trial. 

Clifford asked for more case law from Howaniec to support his motion to exclude the evidence that Lowe had been drinking and requested examples of media reports to back up his motion to move the trial to another county. 

Howaniec said he remains concerned that an impartial jury can be found from the tight-knit communities in Oxford County, especially considering the substantial local media exposure the case has garnered. 

“We can never go into the mind of a potential juror, but we’d like to see everyone erring on the side of caution and moving this case to another county, where we’d be running into less risk of potential juror bias,” Howaniec said.

pmcguire@sunjournal.com

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