PORTLAND (AP) – A Superior Court judge said Friday he has probable cause to hold Brandon Mills on a murder charge but would also consider a defense lawyer’s proposal for allowing Mills to be released while awaiting trial.

Justice Thomas Warren said he would take the matter under advisement and provided time for defense lawyer Dan Lilley to submit his proposal in writing.

Mills, 20, and his brother Antwane, 18, were indicted on murder charges in the stabbing of a Portland teenager in his Congress Street apartment last year. In a plea agreement, the charges against Antwane Mills were reduced to burglary and assault.

After Friday’s hearing, Lilley said he intends to ask the judge for Brandon Mills to live in Florida with his uncle, a vice president at the Red Lobster restaurant chain. He said the uncle already has secured a job for Mills if he’s relesaed.

The judge set no timetable for a final ruling. Lilley said he planned to submit his paperwork within a couple of days.

Prosecutors contend that Mills pushed his way into the apartment of 16-year-old Jarmaine Ramirez in retaliation for someone throwing a water balloon on his brother.

Ramirez was fatally stabbed during the confrontation.

Warren’s finding of probable cause that Mills committed murder makes it difficult for bond to be set for Mills, but the judge has some discretion, Lilley said.

Most people charged with a crime in Maine have the right to bail. An exception is made for people who are charged with crimes that were punishable by death before Maine did away with capital punishment more than a century ago.

The evidence against Mills is strong. Witnesses saw children throw water on Antwane Mills, and they say he and his brother showed up at the apartment minutes later.

Ramirez’ sister said Mills and Ramirez struggled, and that Ramirez fell to the floor, exclaiming, “I’ve been stabbed.” Ramirez’s brother has testified that he saw Brandon Mills stab his brother.

Afterward the brothers ran away and ended up Boston. They later turned themselves in, but the knife was never found.

Lilley said his client shouldn’t be charged with murder. “There’s probable cause for manslaughter here, but not for murder,” he said.

AP-ES-02-11-05 1708EST



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