September 20, 2012

Graphic photos introduced in Mercier murder trial

By DOUG HARLOW Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — Prosecutors introduced graphic photos of the body of Rita St. Peter as evidence this morning in the murder trial of Jay Mercier of Industry.

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COLD CASE: Flanked by his attorneys John Alsop, left, and John Martin, defendant Jay Mercier listens to opening statements in the trial in the death of Rita St. Peters in Somerset Superior Court in Skowhegan on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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INVESTIGATION: Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, right, confers with Maine State Police Detective Ryan Jacques prior to opening statements in the murder trial of Jay Mercier in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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The photos, showing St. Peter’s bloody, partially clad body, came during the first day of testimony in the July 1980 killing of St. Peter, who was 20.

Mercier, 57, is accused of beating the young women to death with something similar to a tire iron and then driving over her body with his pickup truck. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Prosecutors also say Mercier sexually assaulted her.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson called for the photos to be shown to the jury under direct examination of former Game Warden James Ross who, with then-state Trooper Barry DeLong, were the first law enforcement officers to arrive at the scene off Campground Road in Anson.

St. Peter was last seen leaving a tavern in Madison late July 4, 1980. Mercier also was seen in the area by witnesses at about the same time, Benson said.

Mercier was interviewed by DeLong, now sheriff of Somerset County, the next day, Benson said, and tire prints from his truck were printed and kept as evidence.

Benson said semen taken from St. Peter’s body also was stored as evidence for 25 years, before modern forensic investigation procedures could identify DNA. Mercier’s DNA later was matched to that found with St. Peter from samples taken by state police, leading to the murder charge, he said.

The trial continues this afternoon and is expected to last into next week.

 

11:00 a.m.

SKOWHEGAN -- A jury of nine women and five men, including two alternates, was chosen Wednesday in the murder trial of an Industry man charged with killing 20-year-old Rita St. Peter in Anson 32 years ago.

Jay S. Mercier, 57, is accused of beating St. Peter with something similar to a tire iron and then running her over with his pickup truck in a field off Campground Road in July 1980. Police say DNA evidence taken from the murder scene matched samples taken later from Mercier.

The trial begins at 9 a.m. today. Superior Court Justice John Nivison is hearing the case.

The 7 1/2-hour jury selection process Wednesday started with a pool of about 100 potential jurors. Later, after public and private interviews with the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys, the pool was cut to 37, then to the final 14.

The final jury will comprise 12 people. The two alternates will be released once closing arguments are completed.

Trial jurors range in age from those appearing to be in their 20s, to others in their 50s and 60s. Jurors' names were not announced Wednesday by the court as a matter of security until after a verdict is reached.

Names of potential jurors were randomly selected from a computerized, state data bank. Each person was summoned to serve on the jury under Maine law.

Members of the initial jury pool were shown a short film in the courtroom Wednesday morning about the judicial process, noting the right of all Americans to be tried by a jury of their peers.

"It's a very human process," the movie's narrator said. "It will live and breathe here in the courtroom, not in some dusty, leather-bound book."

Jurors are paid a small stipend per day. Employers have the option of paying workers on jury duty, but are not obliged.

"This isn't a job, it's a duty," the narrator stated. "You can't put a price on that."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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EVIDENCE: Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson presents evidence to the jury during opening statements in the trial of Jay Mercier in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Murder defendant Jay Mercier looks around in court during his trial in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Thursday in the death of Rita St. Peter 32 years ago.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Justice John Nivison speaks with jurors during opening statements in the trial of Jay Mercier in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Thursday. Mercier is on trial in the death of Rita St. Peter 32 years ago in Anson.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Defense attorney John Martin speaks with jurors during the trial of his client Jay Mercier in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Jay. S. Mercier

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Rita St. Peter in an undated file photo. She was 20 at the time of her death when her body was found off the Campground Road in Anson on July 5, 1980.



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