Mercier murder trial gets underway in Libby

The trial of Trevor Mercier, accused of deliberate homicide in the death of Sheena Devine last October, began in Montana’s 19th Judicial District Court in Libby last week. Opening statements were made to the jury on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Lincoln County Attorney Bernard Cassidy, prosecutor on the case, told the jury about two young children who woke up to find their mother dead on the floor of their home. He spoke about a “green monster of jealousy” which formed in the defendant following the end of their relationship, a relationship, he said, which included domestic assault.

Cassidy also told the jury about a cell phone, belonging to Devine, which was found in a pot of water in the kitchen sink. The later investigation showed the phone belonged to Devine.

Mercier was arrested in February 2016 and charged with partner family member assault following an altercation with Devine. He failed to show up for his August 18, 2016, trial and was convicted in absentia. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail and placed into custody Aug. 20, 2016. The sentence was stayed by Libby City Judge Lucille Briggs Sept. 2, 2016, pending Mercier’s appeal of the conviction and sentence.

The case, Cassidy said, is about personal responsibility. He implored the jurors to “hold the defendant accountable” for his actions on the night of Oct. 5, 2016, the night Sheena Devine died in Libby.

Defense attorney Alisha Backus agreed with Cassidy’s characterization of the case as one of personal responsibility. She told jurors that Mercier made bad decisions on that fateful night, and that he was responsible for the death of Sheena Devine – but that he didn’t intend to kill her.

“I am confident, I’m confident, that after you hear all of the evidence in this case, after you hear all of the evidence, you will come to the conclusion that yes, Trevor caused the death of Sheena Devine, but he didn’t intend to do so,” Backus said.

She then told the members of the jury that in her closing argument, after all of the facts were presented, she would ask them to hold Trevor accountable by finding him guilty, not of deliberate homicide, but of negligent homicide.

Backus said the evidence presented would show the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation erred in their investigation based upon what she called a “rush to judgment” against Mercier. She said it took investigators roughly one hour and 15 minutes to jump from the discovery of the body to a charge of deliberate homicide.

She argued the investigators kept the body in place at the scene of the crime for more than 24 hours, which allowed decomposition to begin and to possibly obscure the exact time of Devine’s death. She said investigators failed to create a crime scene log to track who came and left the scene during the investigation, and failed to pursue any other suspects.

In the end, though, Backus told jurors that Mercier was responsible for the death of Sheena Devine. She told them the two had fought because Mercier decided to “lob a rock” at Devine’s vehicle and shatter its windshield. During the fight, she said, Mercier put her in a “sleeper hold” until she was unconscious, then carried her into the house and laid her down on the carpet.  She said Mercier checked to make sure she was still breathing and left the residence.

The case is expected be sent to the jury sometime this week for a verdict. The Montanian will continue to update this story as it develops.