PORTLAND — Jason Cote is asking the state’s highest court to overturn his murder conviction in the bludgeoning death of Ricky Cole in Detroit in 2013.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Monday heard arguments in the appeal in which Cote, through attorney Verne Paradie Jr., challenged three areas.

Cote says the prosecutor focused too much on an allegation he “stomped” on Cole’s head while testimony proved inconclusive, that more of Cote’s statements to police should have been suppressed since he was not given warnings earlier about his rights, and that there was sufficient evidence to believe Cote acted in self-defense because Cole had used a knife to threaten Cote.

Cote was sentenced a year ago to 45 years in prison for the slaying. He is at the Maine State Prison and his earliest release date is in June 2052, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

The state, through Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, says the jury got it correct and the conviction should stand.

At his trial Cote testified that Cole had asked him to come to his home in Detroit on July 17 to talk and had promised him drugs in return.

“I chose to go there because I was a drug addict and I wasn’t going to say no to doing drugs,” he said.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issues its rulings in writing, sometimes months after oral arguments.

On Monday, Associate Justice Ellen Gorman quizzed Paradie about the stomping issue and noted the medical examiner’s testimony about an injury to the right side of Cole’s face that corresponded to the imprint of boot or shoe.

“Wasn’t the prosecutor well within her rights to argue that to the jury?” Gorman asked.

Paradie said the injury could have been caused by other things.

“My argument is the prosecutor took it too far by insisting that was the manner of death,” he said.

The judges asked if it mattered whether Cole died from the stomping or from being beaten with a pipe.

Paradie said it matters to Cote’s self-defense claim.

Paradie also argued that Cote was in custody when he was in a police cruiser being questioned about Cole’s death but not given Miranda warnings.

The justices seemed to side with Paradie there, remarking about how Cote was not allowed to go inside a home to use the bathroom, but instead sent into the woods with a dirty paper towel to use to wipe himself.

Paradie argued that while the court uses a “reasonable person” standard to determine whether a person is in custody, some defendants lacking much education might not realize when they are free to leave.

Macomber kept his oral presentation confined to the question of when Cote was found to be in custody, saying the judge who heard the motion to suppress argument correctly applied the law.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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