Sherman murder trial stalled due to COVID

Photo of Kendra Baker

DANBURY — Most court matters are now being handled remotely, but the coronavirus pandemic’s hold on jury trials has not waned.

The postponement of trials in Connecticut state courts due to COVID has stalled a number of cases, including that of James Maharg.

The 67-year-old Sherman man is facing murder and evidence tampering charges stemming from the death of his husband, Thomas Conley, two years ago.

Maharg — who pleaded not guilty to both charges — has been behind bars since March 2019, after police responded to his Church Road home and found Conley’s body at the bottom of a staircase.

Police said in their report the fatal incident was the culmination of months of escalating trouble for the couple.

Maharg told police they had been drinking several bottles of tequila a day as a way of dealing with their failing fashion retail supply business and the fact that they were losing their 20-acre farmhouse to the bank, according to the warrant for his arrest.

Authorities said Conley was found with two wounds to the top of his scalp — “the more pronounced of the two being a gaping gash approximately two inches wide and four inches long.”

Conley allegedly “said something nasty” to Maharg in the kitchen and Maharg pushed him, causing Conley to fall backwards into a cabinet shelf, police said.

“Maharg stated he must have struck the victim in the head at some point during this time, however he could not provide us with the object or the exact time frame,” according to Maharg’s arrest warrant.

Maharg, whose case is being handled at state Superior Court in Danbury, remains in custody on $2 million bond.

He is being held at the Cheshire Correctional Institution and awaiting trial — but it’s unclear when that will happen.

His case is currently on what his attorney, John Walkley, calls “the trial list.”

“If a case can’t be resolved with a plea and it looks like it’s going to have to be tried because there’s not a meeting of the minds on a disposition, it means that it’s probably going to have to be tried at some point, so it goes on a list of cases to be tried,” Walkley said.

While it’s possible that another hearing — “or at least a conference with the judge” — will take place in Maharg’s case, Walkley said, there is no upcoming court appearance currently scheduled.

In the meantime, Walkley said he’s been preparing for his client’s trial — whenever that may be.

“We have no idea when trials are going to resume, and we don’t know where this case falls on the trial list,” he said. “We don’t know which case is going to be tried next or third or 10th.”

The Connecticut Judicial Branch announced earlier this month that all jury services in the state have been suspended until at least May 31.