Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the Book: The Amy St. Laurent Case

Forced to

Re-enactment of the Police Confronting Gorman
Re-enactment of the Police Confronting Gorman

After admitting the murder to his mother, Gorman began to come undone. On Dec. 11, he pulled a handgun on a man outside an Alabama gas station. Gorman claimed the man was staring, so he pulled the pistol and shouted, "What you lookin' at?" The victim reported the incident to police, and the next day officers cornered him at the home of a family friend. For nearly six hours, Gorman kept police at bay, threatening suicide with two guns he clutched in his hands. Ultimately, he gave uphe traded his guns for a cigarette and a soda popand was hauled back to Maine on a probation violation charge unrelated to the St. Laurent case.

Re-enactment of Gorman's Threatened Suicide
Re-enactment of Gorman's Threatened Suicide

Meanwhile, Tammy Westbrook had phoned a friend in tears to say that her son had admitted the murder. The friend suggested Westbrook should call the police, but the woman said, "I can't. He's my baby." So the friend called instead.

Westbrook refused to tell police about her son's confession, so she was hauled in front of a grand jury under threat of criminal charges for contempt of court. On Feb. 8, 2002, she sat in the grand jury witness seat and gave a full account of the phone call from her son, breaking into sobs and tears on several occasions.

Cumberland County Courthouse. Portland, Maine
Cumberland County Courthouse. Portland, Maine

The grand jury indicted Gorman for murder, and his trial was docketed to begin Jan. 13, 2003, in Portland's Cumberland County Courthouse before Judge Nancy Mills. By then, Westbrook claimed to have developed amnesia about the confessional phone call from her son. She insisted that she did not even recall giving testimony to the grand jury.

This placed prosecutor William Stokes in a pinch since his case hinged on Westbrook's testimony. Unlike spouses, parents can be compelled to testify in criminal trials. But what good would the mother be on the witness stand if she were to insist that she had repressed all recollection of the phone call?

Stokes made a risky legal gambit. He asked Judge Mills to allow the prosecution to play a recording of Westbrook's grand jury testimonynormally a sealed secret heard only by the 20 grand jury members, a judge and attorneys. Mills cautiously agreed, although she added, "I am not unmindful of the significance of the fact that it is grand jury testimony...and the effect, if I'm wrong, on appeal."

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