Supreme Court rejects Ormsby request for review
By Jen Lynds
Bangor Daily News staff writer
AMITY — The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review the case of convicted murderer Thayne Ormsby, an Ellsworth man sentenced two years ago to three life terms in prison for killing three people in Amity in June 2010.
Ormsby’s attorney, Sarah LeClaire of Presque Isle, filed a petition to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in January. Such a petition is submitted when the party wants the court to review a decision made by a lower court. The Supreme Court gets a large number of such requests each year, but only agrees to hear a small percentage.
In Ormsby’s case, he requested a review of an Oct. 2013 decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in which the justices upheld his conviction and sentences for the June 2010 killings of Jeffrey Ryan, 55, his 10-year-old son, Jesse Ryan, and Jason Dehahn, 30, a friend of the elder Ryan.
Assistant Maine Attorney General Donald Macomber was the respondent on behalf of the state. He said March 11 that he was not surprised that the court opted not to review the case.
“I would have been surprised if they did decide to hear it,” he said.
The three victims were found dead June 22, 2010, about 27 hours after the killings were committed at the elder Ryan’s home on U.S. Route 1 in Amity, according to police.
Ormsby entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. Because of the dual pleas, Ormsby was tried in two phases before Justice E. Allen Hunter in Superior Court in Houlton. He was first found guilty of the murders on April 13, 2012, and then criminally responsible for his crimes on April 19, 2012.
Leclaire represented Ormsby at trial with fellow Presque Isle attorney James Dunleavy.
Attorneys for the 23-year-old Ormsby argued before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last year that his convictions should have been overturned based on several factors, including that his rights to an attorney and to remain silent were violated and that he was denied a change of venue despite prejudicial pretrial publicity.
The justices found no basis to support those arguments.
In her 129-page petition for the writ, Leclaire reiterated much of what she had argued before the Maine supreme court. During a July 2011 court hearing, Maine State Police Detectives Dale Keegan and Adam Stoutamyer testified that Ormsby was repeatedly read his Miranda rights before and during the interview. Keegan said Ormsby professed innocence until confronted with evidence from the crime scene, and then admitted guilt and wrote out a confession for police.
LeClaire maintains that Keegan should have stopped the interview at a time during questioning when Ormsby stated he would have to “plead the Fifth” to some questions.
Despite his statements, Ormsby kept talking and answering questions for police, according to testimony, and never requested he be provided an attorney or that the interview cease.
Macomber has consistently maintained that police followed the proper procedures with respect to Miranda rights. He said that Keegan had made sure to check and see whether, after the Fifth Amendment statement, Ormsby wanted a lawyer or was just done talking briefly.
In the petition submitted for the writ, Leclaire also argued that Ormsby’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights under the constitution were ultimately used against him in the courtroom.
Leclaire noted that Justice Hunter remarked during the sentencing phase of Ormsby’s trial that Ormsby had not taken any responsibility for his crimes. Hunter said that Ormsby’s failure to do so was an “aggravating factor” in the case, and it affected the length of his sentence. Ormsby also did not speak on the day he was sentenced or show any remorse for his crimes as relatives of the victims addressed him in court.
Leclaire stated in the petition that Ormsby’s sentence was increased because of his decision to have a jury trial and because he maintained his silence in the courtroom pending his appeal of the case.
Ormsby also was found guilty of arson for burning Jeff Ryan’s truck after he stole it from the murder scene. In addition to the life sentences for the murders, he was ordered to serve 15 years for the arson.