PORTLAND, Maine — A man who spent 27 years in prison for a murder conviction in the killing of his teenage girlfriend is the victim of a long-standing cover-up, his attorney said in court on Tuesday.

The attorney, Amy Fairfield, made the statement as the case of Tony Sanborn’s murder conviction returned to court. Sanborn’s case is getting another look because of new testimony from a witness and questions about the conduct of police and prosecutors who were involved.

Sanborn’s attorney said investigators looked for ways to implicate Sanborn in the stabbing death of his 16-year-old girlfriend, Jessica Briggs, whose body was found in Portland Harbor in May 1989.

“What you have are facts that were manufactured, and then you have a cover-up of those facts, and sometimes the cover-up is layers and layers deep,” Fairfield said.

The prosecution countered such a cover-up would have been impossible because of the number of people involved. Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha told the judge a cover-up would mean “a lot of good people are involved in doing something to this man that people have never met.”

Sanborn, who was 16 at the time of Briggs’ death, was convicted of killing her in 1992. But the key witness recanted this year, and he was freed on bail.

Court documents then revealed that the witness, Hope Cady, felt threatened and harassed by Sanborn’s defense team. Sanborn’s attorney has denied that accusation.

The hearing that started on Tuesday could take until Oct. 25 and have several outcomes, including Sanborn being returned to prison. Sanborn also could be put on trial again or cleared of conviction.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.