A man who was convicted 30 years ago of killing a 4-year-old girl by placing her in an oven has the opportunity to seek a retrial, thanks to a recent court ruling.
John Lane, 66, was convicted in 1985 of killing Angela Palmer and is currently serving a life sentence. He put Palmer in an oven and turned it up as high as it could go, then wedged a chair under the oven’s handle to prevent escape.
“This was a case that sent shockwaves through the community, across the state, and it was felt on the other side of the world,” Elliott Epstein, an attorney and author who attended the original trial, told WCSH.
But Lane is now arguing that his attorney failed to represent him adequately at the time.
In a motion filed in federal court, Lane claimed that the statute of limitations, the period of time after his conviction in which he was allowed to file an appeal, should not apply to him.
According to his motion, his mental illness had been treated “with powerful antipsychotic and psychotropic drugs that render[ed] him incoherent and cognitively diminished, if not incapacitated,” according to the Bangor Daily News.
Lane also argued in the motion that his mental health records had not been introduced at the trial, and that his attorney had failed to challenge a statement by a psychiatrist who said that Lane understood his actions were wrong.
“[Lane] described [Palmer] as a scaly greenish purplish creature who was breathing fire and who was going to kill everyone in the household,” Epstein said.
The Maine Attorney General’s Office countered in March with a filing that urged the court to dismiss Lane’s case. The Attorney General’s filing stated that Lane had presented his appeal 17 years after his right to appeal had lapsed.
Magistrate Judge John Nivison ruled that Lane could legitimately claim his mental health problems did not allow him to submit an appeal earlier, meaning that he should not be prevented by the statute of limitation from seeking a new trial. The ruling is awaiting confirmation by District Judge Nancy Torresen.
Even if the ruling is confirmed, Nivison will still have to rule in favor of Lane’s assertion that his attorney did not represent him fairly in 1985 before a retrial could proceed.