AUBURN — A Lewiston man convicted of killing a downstairs tenant is seeking a new trial claiming a prosecutor prejudiced the jury during closing arguments by gesturing and mouthing answers behind the back of the defense attorney.

Buddy Robinson was found guilty in the 2011 beating and drowning death of 22-year-old Christiana Fesmire, who lived downstairs from his Highland Avenue apartment. He was sentenced in October, roughly a year after his conviction. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

The direct appeal of Robinson’s conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court is pending.

Meanwhile, he is hoping a trial judge will agree that the jury’s verdict was colored by the actions of lead prosecutor Andrew Benson.

In his motion, filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court, defense attorney Adam Sherman wrote that Robinson’s trial attorney, Edward “Ted” Dilworth, was facing the jury while holding in one hand a small box that contained slips of paper during his closing arguments. On each slip, Dilworth had earlier written a question regarding evidence and testimony presented during trial. Dilworth withdrew one slip at a time, posing the prepared questions to the jury.

What Dilworth didn’t know, according to Sherman’s motion, was that Benson was sitting behind him in the courtroom, silently performing by “gesturing with his hands and mouthing favorable (to the state) responses to each question in such a manner that the jurors could easily observe,” Sherman wrote, quoting a defense attorney who had sat in on that portion of the trial.

In an affidavit supporting Sherman’s motion, Lewiston attorney Jason Dionne wrote that he sat in the back of the courtroom with defense attorney Maurice Porter to observe closing arguments. Dionne wrote that he noticed at least five jurors watching as Benson responded to Dilworth’s questions.

Dionne said he and Porter shared their observations with each other. Porter also provided a sworn affidavit to Sherman.

Sherman wrote in his motion that Benson’s actions served as “an improper and unprofessional rebuttal” to Dilworth’s closing argument. Because Dilworth couldn’t view Benson’s actions, he wasn’t able to raise an objection in an effort to have the judge issue a remedy on the spot.

The trial judge can either deny Robinson’s motion or certify to the state’s high court that it would grant the motion but would leave it to that court to take action.

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