AUBURN — State prosecutors filed a motion asking an Androscoggin County Superior Court judge to dismiss efforts by a Sabattus man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend in 2005 to get a new trial.

Daniel Roberts

Daniel Roberts, 50, filed a motion in Androscoggin County Superior Court alleging that new DNA extraction techniques show that the victim of the shooting, 29-year-old Melissa Mendoza, may have handled the .38-caliber revolver Roberts claimed she was holding before he shot her in self-defense.

At Roberts’ three-week trial in 2007, prosecutors presented an expert who testified that Mendoza had been excluded as a potential donor from any traces of DNA found on the gun.

But in a motion filed last summer by Boston lawyer Rosemary Scapicchio and Lewiston attorney Verne Paradie, the attorneys assert DNA testing “has made significant strides in regard to the quality of DNA testing available including, but not limited to, the sensitivity of the DNA amplification kits and an increased number of loci included in the kits.”

The defense attorneys wrote that the results of the state’s testing at the time of the trial and recent testing by a Utah human genomics DNA forensic laboratory “reveals that the testimony at trial was not accurate.”

The butt of the revolver had a “mixture of three contributors and Mendoza cannot be excluded from the two minor contributors,” the motion reads. “And the trigger had a mixture of two contributors and Mendoza cannot be excluded from the sample.”

Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber filed a motion in Androscoggin County Superior Court seeking to have Roberts’ motion dismissed, calling his efforts “untimely.”

He wrote that “in cases in which the request for analysis is based on the existence of new technology with respect to DNA analysis that is capable of providing new material information, (the motion must be filed) within two years from the time that the technology became commonly known and available.”

Roberts, who filed his motion on June 24, was required to establish that the existence of the new DNA technology became known and available less than two years before he filed his motion, or sometime since June 24, 2017.

Macomber included in his motion an affidavit from a forensic biology supervisor at the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory in Augusta, who wrote that the latest technology in DNA testing referred to in Roberts’ motion was available “well before 2017” and that the testing kits “were available sooner than what (Roberts’ motion) indicates.”

Roberts had told police that he touched the gun at some point, given that he owned it. He said Mendoza had stolen the gun from him and entered his garage armed with it. After Roberts shot her, the first responding officer moved the gun before police photographed the scene, according to the motion.

“With this new testing, Roberts is able to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence, taking the evidence at trial, coupled with the newly discovered evidence, that he meets the requirements under (state law) that he is entitled to a new trial,” the motion reads.

Roberts shot Mendoza of California in his garage shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 15, 2005. The couple had been embroiled in a custody dispute over their daughter, Savanna, who was 2 years old at the time.

Roberts claimed the shooting was self-defense. But a jury agreed with prosecutors, who said Roberts had lain in wait for Mendoza, then planted the gun.

Roberts was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and later petitioned the court, claiming his constitutional rights had been violated, also appealing that decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Both times, the high court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

The judge may rule on Roberts’ motion or may call for a hearing of oral arguments.


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