Witness Who Recanted Decades-Old Testimony Returns To Stand In Anthony Sanborn Trial

Nov 7, 2017

A key witness whose testimony helped secure bail for Anthony Sanborn as he fights a decades-old murder conviction was back on the stand Tuesday in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Last spring, Hope Cady recanted her testimony from the original trial, that she had witnessed Sanborn murder Jessica Briggs on a Portland pier. Cady still maintains that she didn’t see Sanborn commit the crime.

Sanborn’s conviction in 1992 hinged largely on Cady’s testimony, and his bid for freedom during his postconviction review could also largely rest on her. At a bail hearing last April, Cady testified that Portland police detectives threatened her and told her what to say in the original trial.

During Sanborn’s postconviction review on Tuesday, Cady was asked by one of Sanborn’s attorneys, Tim Zerillo, to reaffirm her more recent testimony.

“When you testified before Justice Wheeler this past year, did you tell the truth when you testified?” he said.

“Yes,” Cady said.

But when Zerillo asked Cady for specifics about how police threatened her, she struggled to remember the events from nearly 30 years ago, when she was 13 years old and living on the streets of Portland.

At times, Cady’s answers were in conflicted with each other. She said at one point she couldn’t recall having conversations with police, then several minutes later said she remembered long interviews at the police station.

One thing Cady said she’s certain of is how she feels about the police detectives who investigated the murder.

“Were they professional with you?” Zerillo said.

“No,” Cady said.

“And what do you mean by that?” Zerillo said.

“For me to be scared of somebody, they had to intimidate me somehow. This is what, 20 years later? And I’m still scared of the name,” Cady said.

The name, she clarified afterward, is Portland police Detective James Daniels. But when the state questioned Cady, Assistant Attorney General Meg Elam tried to cast doubt on the claim that Cady feared police.

Elam presented a note from 1990, where Cady updated Daniels on where she was staying.

“And left a phone number?” Elam said.

“Yes,” Cady said.

“And then wrote down, ‘Talk to you later?’” Elam said.

“Yes,” Cady said.

“And then signed your name?” Elam said.

“Yes,” Cady said.

That note was the only subject the state asked Cady about, and Elam’s questioning only lasted a few minutes. Sanborn’s attorneys questioned her for about 45 minutes. Toward the end, Zerillo asked Cady whether anyone had coerced her into changing her testimony. Cady said no.

“And why did you decide that it was important to tell the truth about that testimony in April of this year?” Zerillo said.

“I just felt it was the right thing to do,” Cady said.

Her testimony comes in the fifth week of Sanborn’s postconviction review. If Justice Joyce Wheeler finds it’s probable that the evidence presented would have resulted in a different verdict 25 years ago, his conviction will be thrown out.