A conference is scheduled Tuesday to weigh options and possibly avoid a trial in the case of a Palmyra man charged with murdering another man in Detroit last summer.
Jason C. Cote, 22, along with his lawyers and state prosecutors, will meet with a judge in a settlement conference at 9 a.m. in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Cote, who has a record of misdemeanor convictions for theft, forgery and failing to appear in court, faces 25 years to life in prison for the July 17 murder of Ricky B. Cole inside the man’s mobile home.
Cote’s lawyer, John Alsop of Skowhegan, said the conference will be heard by Justice Carl Bradford, a third-party judge who is not involved with the case or the upcoming trial, if there is one.
“The options would be working out an agreement to a plea, either to murder with a particular sentence, or perhaps manslaughter with a particular sentence or perhaps a cap deal, where the parties argue within the framework of sentencing for a particular result,” Alsop said Friday. “We feel we have some strong defenses to the charge of murder.”
Alsop said with the assistance of a neutral party — Bradford — the sides might be able to work out an agreement that is “fair and just for all concerned.”
“It’s a compromise thing,” he said. “Nobody wants to try a case and lose it, so people compromise.”
Assistant Attorney General Lean Zainea is the lead prosecutor in the case. Neither Zainea nor Deputy Attorney General William Stokes returned calls for comment Friday.
All parties involved with the case must make themselves available for the hearing in person and be prepared to be there for the day, according to court documents.
The conference is closed to the public. No evidence will be presented.
Alsop said he doesn’t expect a ruling Tuesday, but an informal agreement could be reached for discussion with the victim’s family and others involved in the case. An agreement Tuesday could mean an early settlement in the case, he said.
He said he couldn’t discuss what he will bring to the table Tuesday, but noted that Cote is young and doesn’t have a felony criminal record.
Cote is charged with the intentional, knowing or depraved indifference murder in Cole’s bludgeoning death. Cote, 44, is alleged to have beaten Cole with a pipe in a mobile home Cole rented on Main Street in Detroit.
Detectives with the State Police Major Crimes Unit found Cole dead in the blood-spattered mobile home.
Cole had a fractured skull, extensive blood loss and deep internal injuries, according to the autopsy report. The state medical examiner’s office concluded that Cole died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
Cote entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment Sept. 13. He remains held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.
Police said in court documents that Cote already was high on drugs when he arrived at Cole’s home. A day earlier, Cote snorted methadone and Xanax at the friend’s home on Dogtown Road in Palmyra, according to the court affidavit. He later was dropped off at Cole’s residence, allegedly to get more drugs. Cole was found hours later dead from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
When police interviewed Cote on July 18 at a friend’s home in Palmyra, they saw he had recent cuts and bruises on his forearm, back, leg and face, according to court documents. He told them he had nothing to do with Cole’s death. Cote was arrested July 24 at his grandmother’s house in St. Albans.
DNA on clothing found under Cote’s home on Hurd’s Corner Road in Palmyra matched DNA from an oral swab taken from Cote and from blood taken during Cole’s autopsy, court documents show.
A deadline of March 15 was set for Cote and his lawyers to produce to the state any reports from potential experts they plan to call as witnesses at trial, if there is a trial. Both parties have until May 1 to file witness lists, exhibit lists to be presented at trial and any motions to exclude evidence claimed to be objectionable by either party until a judge determines the evidence is admissible.
A trial date has been set for May 19.
Alsop also has filed a motion to suppress any statements, confessions or admissions to the crime that Cote might have made to detectives July 18 or during follow up interviews with police July 23 and 24.