SKOWHEGAN — The lawyer for convicted murderer Jason Cote has filed an appeal of Cote’s guilty verdict and his 45-year prison sentence, saying the evidence presented doesn’t support a murder conviction.

Stephen Smith, one of Cote’s court-appointed attorneys, said that Cote, 25, of Palmyra, was acting in self defense when he bludgeoned Ricky Cole, 47, to death in Cole’s mobile home in Detroit on July 17, 2013.

Smith is appealing both the December guilty verdict and the sentence of 45 years in the state prison imposed Feb. 12.

“We believe the verdict is not supported by the state’s evidence,” Smith said after filing the appeal. “Mr. Cote was clearly in fear for his life and was lucky to survive a desperate struggle.”

The appeal was filed Feb. 17 in Skowhegan as the court of origin, Smith said, and will be transferred to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Smith also has filed a motion for transcripts of the trial at state expense. Dates and times of the appeal hearing have not been set. Smith said the court can decline to hear the sentencing appeal, but not the conviction appeal.

Smith told reporters outside the courtroom after Cote was sentenced that even “a sentence of six months would have been unacceptable” because Cote is innocent of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder.

Justice Andrew Horton, who heard the case, and Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea, the prosecutor, disagreed with Smith and Cote, saying that Cole’s death was not self-defense.

“Self-defense disappeared when he stood over Mr. Cole and struck him on his head and stomped on his head,” Horton said when he imposed the sentence. “This was a brutal, savage killing.”

Cole was struck repeatedly with a long metal pipe and his jaw was fractured after being stomped on, according to testimony at the trial.

Zainea, in asking for a sentence longer than 45 years — she wanted 50 years — noted that a knife that Cote said was used by Cole to threaten him was never found.

A message left with Zainea seeking comment on the appeal wasn’t returned immediately Tuesday afternoon.

Zainea said at the sentencing that the drug-related killing was “savage, brutal, outrageous and revolting.”

Experts testified during trial that Cole’s blood was found throughout his mobile home in Detroit, that the manner in which the blood was splattered was consistent with the violence that had taken place. Cole’s blood also was found splattered on clothing belonging to Cote. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner concluded that Cole had died from blunt force trauma. Cole had a fractured skull, extensive blood loss and deep internal injuries, according to the autopsy.

Cote later was charged with murder.

Smith said Cote had no intention of murdering Cole, but that the two had a “toxic ecosystem” between them.

He also told reporters that despite Cote’s previous drug use, he is “completely salvageable” and will be released from prison someday as a productive member of society.

Cote spoke to the court and to the filled courtroom of families and friends of both Cole and Cote before he was sentenced.

“I wish that I had died myself,” he said. “I admit that I did something horrible, something tragic. I’m always haunted by that, and now I have a label that no man should be proud of.”

He said he was sorry, then turned to Cole’s family, seated in the courtroom, and added, “I really am.”

Members of Cole’s family who were present Feb. 12 for sentencing said their family will never be the same after what Cote had done.

Cole’s sister, Carmen Stanton, said after the sentence was imposed that the family wasn’t satisfied and wanted a life sentence.

“He took my brother and we’ll never be satisfied,” she said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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