PARIS — Defense lawyers argued Thursday that an Oxford woman’s manslaughter convictions should be overturned because her father should not have been allowed to testify at her trial.

Active-Retired Judge Robert Clifford did not issue an immediate ruling on the motion from defense attorneys representing Kristina Lowe who is seeking a new trial or to overturn a jury’s May verdict.

A central question at Thursday’s hearing in Oxford County Superior Court was whether the trial testimony of Lowe’s father, Earl Lowe, unfairly prejudiced jurors who convicted Kristina Lowe, 21, of two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of Logan Dam, 19, and Rebecca Mason, 16, and on one count of leaving the scene of an accident.

Defense attorney Chelsea Peters argued that jurors never should have heard Earl Lowe testify that Kristina told him she received a text minutes prior to the fatal car crash on Route 219 in West Paris on Jan. 7, 2012, because that information was previously suppressed by the court.

“We believe that Earl’s statement was arguably the single most damaging piece of evidence against Kristina presented at trial,” Peters said.

Peters also said the state had failed to adequately disclose that Earl Lowe was due to appear, and his abrupt testimony left little chance to examine it.

In rebuttal, Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne said the defense had ample opportunity to examine Earl Lowe’s testimony but chose not to. He suggested the defense may have ignored Lowe’s testimony during trial so it could file a motion for a new trial.

Defense attorney James Howaniec described Earl Lowe as the state’s star witness because he essentially corroborated testimony from several teenagers attending a party who said Kristina Lowe admitted to texting while driving before the crash.

The court heard for the first time from Lowe’s mother, Melissa Stanley, who testified that Earl Lowe, her former husband, was never in the room with only Maine State Police Trooper Lauren Edstrom, and that Kristina became “enraged” when he entered a hospital room where she was being treated.

The testimony followed the same timeline of events Edstrom testified to two weeks ago, and appeared to cast doubt on the veracity of statements made by Earl Lowe during the trial, in which he testified that his daughter told him directly she was texting and driving.

Stanley, who was on the defense’s witness list but was not called during the trial, testified that she was in the room with Kristina as doctors treated her for injuries sustained in the crash. She said the two did not talk about what had happened.

Stanley said she waited in a separate area from where Edstrom was interviewing her daughter. At this point, Earl joined her, arriving for the first time at the hospital.

Stanley told Peters the first time either she or her former husband heard about texting was from Edstrom, when she emerged from her interview with Kristina.

Stanley said her daughter did not have contact with her father, and the two were estranged.

“She asked him to leave. She didn’t want him there,” Stanley said.

She fought back tears when Peters asked her to describe her conversation with her daughter in the hospital.

“She was just crying, saying, ‘Becca and Logan, Becca and Logan,’ saying she wished she had died with them,” Stanley said.

The question of whether Lowe was impaired when she drove the 2002 Subaru Impreza from The Big Apple in West Paris also featured prominently Thursday.

Lowe was not convicted of criminal OUI, which baffled defense attorneys when the two manslaughter convictions were announced.

Howaniec said there was no evidence Lowe was drunk, no evidence that she had smoked marijuana, and no evidence she was reading a text — only that she had received one.

The defense categorized the accident as a series of civil violations that should not have incurred a fine, let alone manslaughter charges. Howaniec cited a legislative statute that dealt with deaths resulting from civil infractions, which he said was relevant to this case.

He was questioned closely by Clifford, who said the jury was well within its right to view each charge separately; it did not, Clifford said, have to convict Lowe of one crime — in this case OUI — to find her guilty of manslaughter.

That was a view the state maintained when it argued that the jury returned a rational verdict given that the totality of Lowe’s actions on that night deviated from what a responsible person would do in the same circumstances.

Assistant District Attorney Joesph O’Connor said the jury was right to examine other evidence, including distraction, speeding and statements party-goers relayed to the jury.

“We met our burden,” O’Connor said.


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