PORTLAND (AP) – A killer’s defense that he flew into a homicidal rage after the male victim allegedly made a pass at him and triggered childhood memories of being raped did not justify invoking “sexual self-defense,” the state supreme court said Wednesday.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the appeal of Edwin Graham, who is serving an 18-year sentence for fatally beating and stabbing a man after they met at a Christmas party in 2001.

Graham’s lawyer argued he did not get a fair trial because the judge did not instruct jurors on the concept of sexual self-defense, which says a person can be justified in using lethal force to repel a gross sexual assault.

But the supreme court said it was not reasonable to believe the victim made a pass at Graham and later picked himself up from the ground after being severely beaten to try to force Graham to have sex.

“Even when viewed in the light most favorable to Graham, the evidence is not sufficient to generate a jury instruction on sexual self-defense,” Justice Robert Clifford wrote in Wednesday’s 7-0 ruling.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who tried the case, said the story of the victim making a pass was “pure invention.” For one thing, the victim, Zachary Savoy, was not gay, Benson said.

Graham was accused of beating Savoy with a baseball bat, stabbing him in the chest with a knife and kicking him in the head after they started fighting at Graham’s home, where they had been drinking after the party.

Jurors in the murder trial in Hancock County Superior Court found Graham guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The episode unfolded on Dec. 21, 2001, when Graham and Savoy met at the Christmas party and agreed to go to Graham’s trailer, where they drank beer and vodka.

At one point, Savoy allegedly placed his hand on Graham’s shoulder, and Graham turned to find the men face to face. Graham, who believed Savoy was making a pass, told Savoy to respect his private space.

A fight later ensued after Savoy pulled out some marijuana and Graham attempted to show him to the door.

Graham broke a bat on Savoy’s face and left him in a heap outside. He said that as he walked away he heard footsteps crunching in the snow, bringing back memories of being sexually assaulted as a boy.

Graham testified he didn’t remember what happened after that.

Savoy died hours later at Eastern Maine Medical Center. His injuries included a broken nose, cuts and bruises, a lost tooth and a chipped tooth, and five stab wounds, one of which deflated a lung.

Justice Donald Marden instructed jurors on self defense but he declined to instruct them on sexual self defense.

The supreme court agreed that someone making a pass doesn’t rise to the level of invoking the defense. The court also said Graham had clearly prevailed in the fight and there was no evidence that Savoy had the intent or the capacity to carry out a sexual assault on the defendant.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, who handled the appeal, said Graham never mentioned anything about the victim making a pass at him after the assault. That only came up later.

He said the defendant should consider himself lucky that he was convicted of manslaughter and not murder.

“Looking at the massive violence he inflicted, he’s lucky just to be convicted of manslaughter. This may be one of those cases where the phrase ‘literally got away with murder’ applies,” he said.

AP-ES-03-10-04 1304EST



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