The Maine State Legislature’s Judiciary Committee held a public hearing Monday on an emergency bill that would grant subpoena power to the Independent Commission tasked by Gov. Janet Mills with investigating the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston.
The bipartisan legislation, LD 2192, is sponsored by the legislative leaders of both parties, is supported by Gov. Mills, and was a measure requested by the Commission itself.
The Independent Commission was established via executive order by Gov. Mills on Nov. 9, and is charged with investigating the “complete facts and circumstances — including any failures or omissions” related to the Lewiston shooting.
The Commission is comprised of seven experts — appointed by the governor and Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey — from both legal and mental health backgrounds, and is chaired by Daniel Wathen, former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
The emergency legislation as proposed would enable the Independent Commission to issue subpoenas to obtain documents and to compel the testimony of witnesses with a majority vote of the body.
Jerry Reid, Gov. Mills’ chief legal counsel, told the Judiciary Committee Monday that the bill is modeled after a statute that allows subpoena power to be granted to certain legislative investigatory committees, though Reid was unable to produce an example of an instance where that power was granted to a commission appointed by the governor.
Attorney General Frey also testified Monday, adding that the bill would help the Commission obtain out-of-state confidential documents, such as medial records related to Lewiston shooter Robert R. Card, Jr.’s two-week stay at a New York psychiatric hospital in the summer of 2023.
Although the Independent Commission held a public meeting last Thursday to hear testimony from the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, Ann Jordan, the Executive Director of the Commission told the Judiciary Committee Monday that they are encountering difficulty getting some individuals to testify.
“As the Commission has undertaken its investigation, it has encountered several individuals who have either refused to appear, or who have been directed not to appear by their superiors,” Jordan told the Committee.
“Other situations have arisen where persons have refused to turn over records in their possession absent a legally binding order,” Jordan said.
If the Commission is not granted subpoena power, Jordan said there will be “scores of unanswered questions and missing information.”
While Jordan did not name which specific persons the Commission was having difficulty getting to testify, she said the Commission has “run into some issues” with the U.S. Army.
Robert Card was an Army Reservist in unit based in Saco, and members of his unit were aware of his increasing paranoia and deteriorating mental health months before the Oct. 25 shootings. Several of the men in his unit who were aware of his worsening mental health were also members of Maine law enforcement agencies.
Card’s access to firearms and other weapons were restricted during training sessions by the Army Reserve after one of his fellow soldiers reported that Card had made a threat to shoot up a military installation in Saco.
The U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Inspector General are both conducting reviews of the Army’s conduct regarding Card in the lead up to the shooting.
The bill is scheduled for a work session before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 11 a.m.
As emergency legislation, the bill would take effect immediately upon its signing by the governor if it passes with two-thirds support in both the Maine House and Senate.
Below is a list of the Commission’s scheduled public meetings through early March, and the testimonies which are scheduled for each meeting:
- Thursday, Feb. 1, 8:30 a.m.: Testimony from victims
- Thursday, Feb. 15, 9:00 a.m.: Maine State Police.
- Thursday, March 7 (Time TBD): The Commission has extended a request to U.S. Army personnel to testify.
The meetings will take place in the Deering Building, room 101, at 90 Blossom Lane in Augusta.