Argued: February 6, 2017
E. Paradie, Jr., Esq. (orally), Paradie, Sherman, Walker
& Worden, Lewiston, for appellant Jason C. Cote
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Donald W. Macomber, Asst.
Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta,
for appellee State of Maine
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Jason C. Cote appeals from a judgment of conviction entered
by the trial court (Somerset County, Horton, J.)
after a jury found him guilty of one count of murder, 17-A
M.R.S. § 201(1)(A) (2016). Cote argues that (1) the
motion court erred in denying his motion to suppress in part;
(2) the States attorney committed prosecutorial misconduct
when she referenced Cote stomping on the victims head in both
her opening statement and closing argument; and (3) there was
insufficient evidence in the record upon which the jury could
find him guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. We
affirm the judgment.
The jury rationally could have found the following facts
based on the evidence, which we view in the light most
favorable to the jurys verdict. See State v. Pratt,
2015 ME 167, ¶ 2, 130 A.3d 381. At the time of his
death, the victim was a drug dealer and the defendant, Jason
Cote, was one of his customers.
On the evening of July 17, 2013, Cote received a text message
from the victim asking Cote to come to the victims residence
in Detroit. Cote agreed and walked to the victims trailer,
where the two proceeded to smoke marijuana. After making
"small talk, " the victim confronted Cote about
Cotes role in misleading agents from the Bureau of the
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who were conducting
an investigation of the victim. Cote, who had previously
agreed to lie to the investigators on the victims behalf,
told the victim that he was having second thoughts about his
continued involvement in the scheme. A physical altercation
ensued, and Cote, using a metal pipe, bludgeoned the victim
to death, striking him multiple times in the head.
On September 6, 2013, Cote was charged by indictment with
murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A), and he subsequently
entered a not guilty plea.
Motion to Suppress
Before trial, Cote moved to suppress statements he made to
law enforcement officials prior to his arrest. A hearing on
his motion was held on May 1, 2014. At the conclusion of the
hearing, the motion court made the following findings, which
are supported by the record. See State v. Lovett,
2015 ME 7, ¶ 3, 109 A.3d 1135.
On the morning after the victims death, a detective from the
Maine State Police and several other law enforcement officers
arrived at the residence of Cotes friends where Cote had
slept the previous night. From outside the residence, the
detective placed a call to Cotes cell phone. When Cote
answered the call, he initially lied about his whereabouts,
informing the detective that he was driving around Palmyra.
The detective then revealed that he knew that Cote was inside
the home and asked him to come outside to speak with him.
Cote agreed and walked to the bottom of the driveway, where
he was greeted by the detective. The detective invited Cote
to speak with him in the back of his cruiser and Cote agreed.
Over the course of the morning, the detective asked Cote a
number of questions concerning his whereabouts on the day of
the victims death, but he did not readily reveal that he was
investigating a homicide or that Cotes name had come up in
the early stages of that investigation. The detective did,
however, consistently inform Cote that he was not under
arrest and that his involvement in the interview was
voluntary. The interview was conducted in a calm manner and
the detective allowed Cote to make and receive phone calls
and to take breaks to smoke cigarettes and relieve himself.
Eventually, the detective informed Cote that he was
conducting an investigation into the death of the victim and
that Cote was a person of interest. Cote continued his
willing participation in the interview until around 12:40
p.m., approximately three hours after the interview began,
when he inquired as to what the next steps in the process
would be and informed the detective that he had things to do
later that day. The detective largely ignored these concerns,
however, and continued with the interview, obtaining
additional statements; conducting a consented to search of
Cotes trailer; taking pictures of his injuries, phone logs
and text messages; and obtaining a DNA sample.
After this initial interview on July 18, the detective
interviewed Cote twice more: once on July 23 at the home of
an acquaintance and again immediately preceding his arrest on
July 24 at his grandparents house. At no time before his
arrest on July 24 was Cote administered Miranda
After the hearing, the court (Horton, J.) granted
Cotes motion to suppress in part, concluding that he was in
custody for Miranda purposes beginning at 12:44 p.m.
on July 18, and that because he was not given the requisite
Miranda warnings at that time, any statements he
made after that point would be suppressed. The court denied,
however, Cotes motion insofar as it pertained to statements
obtained prior to 12:44 p.m. on July 18, or those obtained on
July 23 and 24, because he was not in custody during those
interactions. The court also concluded that the noncustodial