Murder conviction overturned in machete killing in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s top court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a man in the machete killing of his neighbor in 2016, but the court appeared to leave open an avenue for retrying the case.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that Bruce Akers’ rights were violated by police and that a judge should have suppressed evidence and statements gathered by officers.

Rory McNamara, who handled Akers’ appeal, called it a “stunning” decision.

“It shows a lot of character by the court to follow the law” even if it meant tossing incriminating evidence, he said.

The attorney general’s office is reviewing the court’s decision and had no further comment, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

Akers, of Limington, was sentenced to 38 years in prison for killing the victim after an argument about alleged stolen alcohol in June 2016.

Douglas Flint, 55, was reported missing before police searched Akers’ property. Investigators later found Flint’s body hidden under a pile of rotting deer carcasses and debris.

The supreme court said police officers conducted an unlawful search of Akers’ home without a warrant by going on his property and looking in the window of his camper. The court said the state failed to demonstrate that Akers’ self-incriminating statements made after police roused from sleep were made voluntarily.

The statements were used to obtain a search warrant that led to the discovery of Flint’s body.

In a footnote, the court allowed prosecutors to argue that it was inevitable that the body would be found regardless of the incriminating statements that were illegally obtained by police.

It also allowed the judge to determine whether Akers’ spontaneous statements could be used if there’s a retrial.