October 8, 2013

Camden man charged with pushing wife off cliff fights evidence

By Jesse Scardina jscardina@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

NEWPORT — The attorney for a Camden man who allegedly pushed his ex-wife off a cliff argued that a technicality jeopardized his client’s chance at a fair trial.

Charles Black, 70, was charged in April 2011 for allegedly trying to kill his then-wife by hitting her in the head with a rock before pushing her over the edge of Maiden Cliff, according to police. Black was found injured shortly after the incident and was arrested a few days later.

Lisa Black fell a short distance before making her way down to the base of the mountain, where a motorist took her to the hospital.

At a Maine Supreme Judicial Court hearing Tuesday at Nokomis Regional High School, Black’s lawyer, Walter McKee, said a search warrant obtained by the prosecution in February 2012 requesting confidential medical records lacked sufficient probable cause. The request of more than 500 pages of Black’s medical records was also too broad, according to McKee.

“The state shouldn’t get to use these records. They are privileged,” McKee said. “The state should have known to limit the request.”

The high court expects to issue a ruiling on the matter later.

Another issue discussed Tuesday between the prosecution and defense was why a search warrant was requested, rather than a subpoena. With a subpoena, if a party seeks confidential or privileged documents, the party needs to file a motion prior to serving the subpoena so that it’s apparent to both sides.

The approval of a search warrant nearly a year after the criminal prosecution began, without any notice to Black, is what upset McKee.

“Regardless of procedure and probable cause, the use of a search warrant in circumstances like these was fundamentally unfair to Black,” the defendant’s brief states.

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said the request for the search warrant was appropriate because of Black’s subsequent injury after the incident. Yet, Rushlau made it clear that the medical documents had been sealed and hadn’t been looked at in preparation for a trial.

“The trial is not tainted by the search warrant,” Rushlau said, adding that the request of a subpoena for the medical records would have initiated the trial more quickly but “with the circumstances we had, it was the only logical way to go.”

The prosecution said the medical records were vital in finding out about Black’s state after the incident, when he told the court that he had no memory of what took place on Mount Megunticook in April 2011.

After the prosecution obtained the records in February 2011, McKee objected about the state’s acquisition of Black’s medical files. The prosecution put those documents in a sealed file before Justice Jeffrey Hjelm later ruled the prosecution could use the records, but could not look at them pending the appeal by McKee.

Black is charged with attempted murder, two counts of elevated aggravated assault, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of domestic-violence assault.

Lisa Black filed for divorce after the incident, and she filed charges against her husband in September 2012.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

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