Midcoast judge rejects effort to throw out murder suspect’s confessions

Andrew Kierstead is led out of the Knox County Superior Courtroom in October after a hearing to determine whether his confessions can be used at the trial scheduled for next month.
Stephen Betts
Andrew Kierstead is led out of the Knox County Superior Courtroom in October after a hearing to determine whether his confessions can be used at the trial scheduled for next month. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 12, 2013, at 9:57 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 12, 2013, at 10:54 a.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Jurors will get to hear the confessions made to police by a Tenants Harbor man accused of gunning down a man he said had cut off his drug supply.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ruled Tuesday that statements made by Andrew J. Kierstead, 41, were voluntary and that they can be used by the prosecution in the defendant’s murder trial. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday, Nov. 18, in Knox County Superior Court.

Defense attorney Steven Peterson had argued before Justice Jeffrey Hjelm that Kierstead was not thinking clearly and was suicidal — after taking drugs and alcohol — when officers questioned him over a five-hour period following the Sept. 27, 2012, shotgun slaying of 48-year-old Richard Mills of Cushing. Peterson had said the statements made by his client should not be admitted at the upcoming trial.

But Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea successfully argued that Kierstead was aware of his circumstances when he spoke to a public safety dispatcher, sheriff’s officers and state police detectives on the evening of the shooting.

Hjelm stated in his ruling that statements are not involuntary solely because a person is under the influence of drugs, citing a 1981 court ruling.

While Kierstead may have consumed Vicodin and methadone and drank that day, the judge also pointed out that testimony during two days of hearings on the defense’s motion to suppress the statements — held Oct. 21 and Oct. 29 — from emergency medical technicians who examined the Tenants Harbor man as well as police showed that Kierstead was fully responsive to questions.

The suspect’s blood alcohol level was 0.054 shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sept. 28, an emergency room doctor from Pen Bay Medical Center testified at last month’s hearing. The doctor said that Kierstead’s blood alcohol level could have been around 0.150 five hours earlier when he was being questioned.

Kierstead has been held without bail since his arrest the night of the shooting.

The defense filed its list of potential witnesses with the court last week. The list contains 22 names including state police officers, emergency medical technicians, and staff at Pen Bay Medical Center.

The state had not filed its witness list as of Tuesday morning.

The state has filed a motion, however, to exclude, or at least limit, the testimony of Andrew Wisch, a forensic psychologist. The motion filed by the state maintains that Wisch’s testimony could mislead or confuse jurors. Nowhere in the psychologist’s written report does he conclude that Kierstead was suffering from a major mental illness involving psychosis, the prosecution’s motion states.

Kierstead told police he fired a shotgun repeatedly at his friend Mills because the victim had hooked him on drugs and had been supplying him for 10 or 15 years, but then shut him off for not paying, according to the state police affidavit filed after the shooting.

“They argued and Kierstead got Mills to go outside and help him with a noise under the hood [of his vehicle]. When Mills was looking under the hood, Kierstead got a 12-gauge shotgun from the front seat and pointed it at Mills,” the affidavit stated.

“Mills told him to put it away before someone got hurt. [Kierstead] then told them [officers] that he fired the shotgun at Mills. He pumped another round in and kept firing. He said he did not know how many shots he fired,” the affidavit stated.

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