AUBURN — The trial of a local man charged with murder in the 2019 shooting of a Turner man in a Walmart parking lot is expected to get underway in Augusta in September.

Justice William Stokes ordered the trial for Gage Dalphonse, 23, of 47 Crest Ave. be held at the Capital Judicial Center’s Superior Court for administrative reasons.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Sept. 13.

The defense had filed a motion seeking to change the venue from Androscoggin County Superior Court, arguing that “widespread adverse publicity in the media and elsewhere in the community” have jeopardized his ability to receive a fair trial.

But Stokes’ order cites “sound judicial administration” as the reason for the transfer of the case from Auburn to Augusta, where Stokes’ is primarily assigned as a Superior Court justice.

Dalphonse filed a motion for a so-called Franks hearing aimed at challenging a Maine State Police affidavit upon which a search warrant was issued by a judge in the Dalphonse case.

In that motion, defense attorney Jesse James Ian Archer wrote that the Maine State Police detective who authored the affidavit omitted or misstated exculpatory information about the shooting.

The judge denied that motion earlier this month, finding that the defense failed to support its allegation with evidence of false information contained in the detective’s affidavit.

On July 13 in Augusta, Justice Stokes is expected to take up a motion filed by defense attorneys seeking to exclude expert testimony at trial by a consulting doctor who analyzed evidence from the crime scene and victim autopsy and theorized the trajectory of the bullets fired and relative placement of the defendant and victim at the time they were fired.

The judge’s ruling could help or hinder a self-defense argument posed by the defendant.

Justice Stokes ruled on an earlier defense motion last summer aimed at keeping from trial the testimony of a crime analyst prosecutors had hoped to present in an effort to suggest to the jury how the shooting happened by interpreting police reports and evidence collected in the case.

Stokes ordered that crime analyst would not be allowed to testify at trial.

But Assistant District Attorney Katherine Bozeman wrote in a motion seeking to have Stokes reconsider that ruling, citing a recent Maine Supreme Judicial Court case involving the fatal shooting of a Somerset County Sheriff’s deputy. At the murder trial of John Williams, prosecutors had called a crime analyst as an expert to reconstruct the shooting for the jury.

In its appeal, the defense argued the court shouldn’t have allowed the state to present that witness.

But the state’s high court upheld the trial’s judge’s decision to allow that testimony, reasoning that “there can be no doubt that (the expert’s) opinion was relevant,” according to Bozeman’s memorandum. She said the court found that expert’s testimony wasn’t unfairly prejudicial, didn’t waste time or confuse issues and that it “helped clarify and tie together the testimony of previous witnesses.”

Stokes is also expected to take up the state’s motion for reconsideration July 13.

Jean Fournier, 41, of Turner was struck by two bullets on June 27, 2019, that killed him outside Walmart on Mt. Auburn Avenue.

The two men had seen each other in the parking lot and had a brief verbal exchange.

The argument apparently ensued after Dalphonse and Fournier’s girlfriend exchanged insults, according to witnesses.

Fournier then walked over to where Dalphonse had parked his car to confront Dalphonse, according to police.

Some witnesses said Fournier slapped or punched Dalphonse in the mouth before the shooting.

Police said Dalphonse, who had a loaded handgun in a holster at the front of his pants, leveraged his torso out of the driver’s-side window of his car and, twisting to the left, shot Fournier as he was walking toward the back of Dalphonse’s car.

Dalphonse remains at the Androscoggin County Jail without bail. He’s expected to be transferred to Kennebec County Jail in Augusta by the time of his trial.

Gage Dalphonse of Auburn is led into Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn by deputies in 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

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