Mark Cardilli Jr. took the witness stand Friday in his own trial, defending his decision to bring a gun into a family fight and point it at his sister’s boyfriend. Cardilli shot and killed Isahak Muse minutes later and is now charged with murder.

Isahak Muse Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

“You don’t consider pointing a gun at a person a threat?” Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin asked Cardilli in one tense exchange.

“I think in this situation, it was perfectly acceptable,” he answered.

The trial ended later Friday and Cardilli’s fate now is in the hands of  Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills. She will render the verdict because Cardilli waived his right to a jury.

Mills did not give a timetable for her decision, saying only that she will notify the parties when she is ready to share her verdict. She has three options: guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter or not guilty of any crime.

Cardilli, 25, has admitted to shooting Muse early on March 16. But Maine law allows the use of deadly force in self-defense and defense of premises, and Cardilli has invoked both. Generally, people have a broader right to use deadly force in their own home than outside of it, but experts have said that legal analysis is complex. The state also had the burden of proving those defenses did not apply in this case.


In her closing argument, the prosecutor said Muse, 22, was not an intruder in the Cardilli home, which is a central element to the defense of premises law. His girlfriend’s parents often allowed him to visit or sleep over, even when they had initially said he could not. On that night, their daughter asked him to come over without their permission, and they again allowed him to stay when he arrived.

Mark Cardilli Jr. is shown exhibits by Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin during his testimony Friday. During her questioning, Robbin asked Cardilli, “You don’t consider pointing a gun at a person a threat?” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“Mark Jr. apparently believed he could use a pistol against a guest who had overstayed his welcome,” Robbin said.

Muse did not have a weapon. Robbin said Muse did throw punches at Cardilli that night, but that did not justify Cardilli’s decision to turn a gun on him.

The prosecutor also argued that the forensic evidence contradicts the story Cardilli told police about events that night. She said one bullet lodged in a door at the bottom of a nearby flight of stairs, and another caused a defect in the floor. Robbin said the location of those marks mean Muse could not have been standing when the fatal shots hit him. The bullets also hit him in the back, even though Cardilli initially said he shot Muse in the chest.

“Shooting an unarmed man in the back is not self-defense,” Robbin said.

The defense attorney said Muse was an intruder, and he committed multiple crimes that night in the Cardilli home. Matt Nichols said Muse was trespassing when he came over that night, and again when he did not want to leave at 1 a.m. as Cardilli’s parents had requested. He accused Muse of assaulting the father and son in the home, and then preventing the mother from calling 911.


He also noted that a toxicology report at autopsy showed Muse had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.18 – more than twice the legal limit for being considered too intoxicated to drive – although Cardilli said that night he did not notice that the other man had been drinking.

Mark Cardilli Jr. stands to point out areas on a map of his parents’ home during his testimony Friday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“They tell him multiple times to leave, you’re not supposed to be here,” Nichols said. “In other words, you are a criminal trespasser and we are giving you a lawful order to leave this house.”

Chelsey Cardilli, 18, previously testified about racist remarks that her brother made to her about Somali people, Muslim people and people of color. The Cardillis are white and Muse was a black Muslim man. The defendant denied making those statements during his testimony.

“This case is not about skin color, it’s not about religion and it’s not about ethnicity,” Nichols said. “The facts and the law, that’s what this case is about.”

The trial took five days. The judge heard from nearly two dozen witnesses. She also watched videos of police interviews, as well as videos from Chelsey Cardilli’s cellphone and a surveillance system at the family’s Riverton home. The camera pointed to the driveway but captured audio from inside the house. In one clip, Muse is yelling, “Why are you hurting me?” In another, Cardilli identified the sound of him racking the slide of his gun.

“I will do what a jury would do, which means I will deliberate,” Mills said. “I will read the evidence.”


Observers packed the courtroom for most of the week. Family members of both Muse and Cardilli sat in the benches, and others came and went during the testimony. The court opened an overflow room. Many young people wore T-shirts or buttons with Muse’s name on them. On Friday, Chelsey Cardilli wore a black sweatshirt with a picture of her boyfriend on the front.

The defense called the mother, Suzanne Cardilli, later in the week. She initially told police her cellphone wouldn’t work when she tried to call 911 during the fight, but she said on the witness stand that Muse hit her hand while she was holding the phone and attempting to dial. At one point, she testified that she was no longer sure about her memory.

Defense attorney Matt Nichols talks with his client during a recess Friday at the Cumberland County Courthouse. Both sides rested their case Friday afternoon, leaving it to Justice Nancy Mills to render a verdict. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The attorneys also made a plan to call Mark Cardilli Sr., who has been diagnosed with ALS since the shooting. He was involved in the verbal and physical altercation that night, but in the end he was the only member of the immediate Cardilli family who did not take the stand. The judge did see a video from a police station waiting room in the first hours after the shooting, when Mark Cardilli tells his son he thought the weapon was an Airsoft gun.

Instead, the defendant took the stand.

Both sides questioned him about his training in the U.S. Army, his relationship with his sister and his knowledge of her boyfriend. Cardilli told the defense attorney that he met Muse once before the shooting. Cardilli testified that he asked Muse why he was dating somebody who was still in high school, but the other man did not answer.

The attorney also grilled him about the night of the shooting, and he described a verbal and physical confrontation between the five people in the house. He said he did not call 911 because he thought Muse would leave when he saw the gun, and he was not sure how long the police would take to respond to the home. But Cardilli testified that once he brandished the weapon, Muse began punching him in the face.


“Why did you shoot?” Nichols asked.

“The reason why I shot was because I feared – I did not know how many more punches I could take – I thought if I dropped the gun, lost the gun, Mr. Muse would take it and turn it on me and my family,” Cardilli said.

The prosecutor grilled Cardilli about the position of the two men during the shooting, and Cardilli said he could not be sure of exactly how and where Muse was in that moment. He did not offer an explanation for the location of the bullet marks.

“You don’t remember shooting him in the back when he tried to run after the first graze wound?” Robbin asked.

“He never turned to run,” Cardilli said.

“But you shot him in the back,” she said.


“As the evidence shows,” he answered.

Cardilli showed little emotion during the trial, and his voice broke only twice.

At one point, he read a text message he sent to his sister when she skipped his birthday party at the family’s home in the October before the shooting, saying he was disappointed and missed her. At another point, Nichols showed Cardilli a birthday card his sister gave him on that occasion and asked him to read it.

“To Marky, you know that I love you, so I’m going to keep this simple,” Cardilli said. “You’re a good brother and a good guy. Hope your birthday’s happy, really happy. Love, Chelsey.”

He choked on the words, and he appeared to wipe a tear from his face.

Later, Robbin picked up the brightly colored card and handed it to Cardilli on the witness stand. Standing over his shoulder, she read the message, skipping the names, and asked him about it.


“That’s not in Chelsey’s writing, is it?” Robbin said.

“No, that’s printed on the card,” Cardilli answered.

“Hallmark wrote that, not Chelsey, right?” she said.

“Correct,” he answered.

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