Bayside Justice: The Tragic Case of Brandon Boone Drewry

Posted on January 28, 2011

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Author, Stan Moody:

The Bayside region of Portland is generally known as the area bordered by Washington Ave., Congress St., Portland St. and Forest Ave. It’s my home town of Portland’s nearest thing to the Bowery. There, people share smack, crack, small loans and each other from sundown to sunup. There, police work requires little investigative skill, piecing together cases comprising a web of convenience. There, public defenders paid by the State to lose their cases against the defenseless, make a living wage – barely.

Through my interest in what goes on in Bayside, I spent a year researching the case of a mentally ill inmate housed in Protective Custody at Maine State Prison. Barring a reasonable intervention in this miscarriage of justice, Brandon Boone Drewry will likely exit Maine State Prison in a pine box, his destiny another victory in the decades-old fight against homelessness in Portland, championed by none other than ex-Police Chief, “Media Mike” Chitwood.

Within three days of residency at a homeless shelter, Drewry, on August 31, 2004, found himself the prime suspect in a sexual assault on a crack whore billed by the media as a housewife because she had a husband and two children at home. The fact that the victim had two samples of semen in her vagina, neither of which was Drewry’s nor her husband’s, was excluded under Maine’s Rape Shield Law, intended to protect the reputation of rape victims.

Drewry was held in county jail for 28 months before trial, during which time he was severely assaulted and went through a number of prominent public defenders, the principle reason being his difficult nature and his demands for justice. There was virtually zero physical evidence in the case. No DNA – hairs and semen – could be traced to Drewry or the victim. It came down to the believability of two street people against a defendant whose courtroom antics and outbursts included sneers and a severely bleeding nose. The trial court and the appeals court applied reasonable standards to the behavior of a mentally ill defendant and denied him a fair trial.

Did he do it? After studying the record, I find few involved with the case, including the jury, who cared one way or another. He had a long history of living under the proverbial societal rock and did not present himself as a person one would want hanging around their suburban neighborhood. His own attorney had this to say on the record: “We all know the effect (his behavior) is having on the jury, but that’s his problem, not ours.”

At the sentencing, the Prosecutor had this to say: “In the state’s mind, the defendant has no redeeming qualities…(He) poses a great risk if he were to be released on probation. He has no ties whatsoever to the State of Maine. He has no stable address. He lived a transient life for more than two decades. He has no familial ties whatsoever…He has a GED education…He is a prime candidate to reoffend.”

A mentally ill defendant sits in a courtroom, has nose bleeds in front of the jury, is placed at a table slightly removed from his attorneys, makes gestures, engages in occasional outbursts and sneers at witnesses for the Prosecution. It is difficult to imagine this happening in 2006, a time when symptoms of mental illness surely were obvious to the Court. He now is a $50,000 year lifelong guest of Maine State Prison, an overcrowded and poorly-managed institution where the more-severely mentally ill inmates are consigned to their own special area within the maximum security unit. Others are spread throughout the general population with minimal care.

Under normal circumstances, without the media hype that surrounded this case, I believe that someone would have stepped in and stopped this charade. The case, however, took on an image intended to demonstrate swift and effective justice in keeping safe the good citizens of Portland. Commendations, instead of discipline for sloppy police work, were handed out after the conviction.

Convicted felon, Brandon Boone Drewry, now sits in Protective Custody at Maine State Prison, barely able to keep his wits about him and estranged from other inmates within his housing unit. The callous disregard that processed him through our court system now finds few resources or the human decency to attend to his treatment or to justice delayed.

Stan Moody of Manchester, ME, former Maine State Representative and most recently a Chaplain at Maine State Prison in Warren, is an advocate for prison reform…A prolific and published writer, Dr. Moody is pastor of the Meeting House Church in Manchester, board member of Solitary Watch and has been a speaker on human rights issues around the nation…His articles may be read at http://www.scribd.com/stanmoody and https://moodyreport.wordpress.com/.

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