- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

AUBURN, Maine (AP) - A man convicted of killing a 4-year-old girl by placing her in an oven because he thought she was a demon should be allowed to argue that mental illness prevented a timely appeal, a federal magistrate judge said.

The magistrate’s recommendation provides a possible opening for John Lane to appeal a crime that happened three decades ago.

The Auburn man is serving a life prison sentence for placing Angela Palmer in an oven, turning up the heat and blocking her escape by putting a chair under the handle of the oven door.

Elliott Epstein, an attorney who wrote a book about the horrific crime, told the Sun Journal newspaper of Lewiston (http://bit.ly/1AFECpw) that Lane still has hurdles to overcome to appeal the case. “This is far from any kind of decision on the merits,” he said.

Lane, 66, petitioned that he had ineffective counsel during his trial. He contends his lawyer failed to move for a finding that he was incompetent to stand trial, to obtain records pertaining to mental health and a previous brain injury and to object to the sentence, among other things.

He said his delay in filing an appeal was because drugs administered in prison left him “incoherent and cognitively diminished, if not capacitated.” The state attorney general will seek to uphold his conviction and sentence, a spokesman said.

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This story has been corrected to show that crime was three decades ago, not two decades ago.

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