Jury handed Cushing shotgun murder case

Andrew Kierstead (right) stands next to his attorney Steven Peterson in Rockland District Court in 2012. Kierstead, who is from Tenants Harbor, is charged with murder in the shotgun killing of 48-year-old Richard Mills.
Stephen Betts | BDN
Andrew Kierstead (right) stands next to his attorney Steven Peterson in Rockland District Court in 2012. Kierstead, who is from Tenants Harbor, is charged with murder in the shotgun killing of 48-year-old Richard Mills.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 22, 2013, at 1:40 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The case of a Tenants Harbor man charged with murdering a Cushing man last year is now in the hands of the jury.

Closing arguments were given Friday morning in the trial of 41-year-old Andrew Kierstead, who is charged with intentional and knowing murder in the shooting death on Sept. 27, 2012, of 48-year-old Richard L. Mills.

Kierstead admitted to police that he shot Mills but his attorney has argued that his client did not know what he was doing at the time.

Assistant District Attorney Leane Zainea concluded her closing arguments by saying that the evidence was clear that Kierstead’s intent was to kill Mills.

“His opiate addiction is not an excuse for murder,” Zainea said in wrapping up her argument.

The prosecutor detailed the forensic evidence from the chief medical examiner and a firearms expert on how Kierstead shot Mills and followed the victim to continue firing four more shots with a 12-gauge shotgun.

“He didn’t shoot wildly. Instead, he leveled the shotgun at Richard and fired,” she said.

Defense attorney Steven Peterson continued to argue, however, that the shooting death was not murder but instead the lesser crime of manslaughter. He said Kierstead was too intoxicated and suffering from years of opiate addiction and — on the day of the shooting — from opiate withdrawal to have formed the intent to kill the man who had been providing him drugs for more than a decade.

Peterson repeated statements made by his client to officers on the night of the shooting in which Kierstead kept saying he didn’t know why he shot Mills.

“He told the officer that he couldn’t believe what he did. Those are not the words of someone who intended to kill someone,” Peterson said.

Many of the witnesses who testified for the state and for the defense since the trial began on Tuesday were the same people who testified at a suppression hearing earlier this month. The defense had tried unsuccessfully to get Kierstead’s statements to police thrown out.

On Friday, an emergency room nurse and an emergency department physician testified about treating Kierstead in the early morning hours following the shooting outside of Mills’ home on Far Meadow Lane.

Both said that Kierstead was suicidal. The defendant’s blood alcohol level was 0.54 at 1:30 a.m., about 12 hours after the shooting.

Testimony showed that on Sept. 27, Kierstead was drinking heavily as soon as he awoke in the morning. He stopped at a bottle redemption center in Thomaston to return some bottles to buy beer and then called Mills in hopes of getting more drugs.

Mills refused to provide him any more drugs, however, until he paid a $250 debt and an argument ensued, according to statements made by Kierstead to police. Later in the day, Kierstead went to Mills’ home and Mills went outside to help Kierstead repair his truck. That is when Kierstead took the loaded shotgun out of his vehicle and shot Mills, according to police.

A neighbor reported hearing gunshots at about 1:30 p.m.

On Friday morning, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm announced that one male juror had been excused because of an illness. There was no problem since two alternates had been picked for the jury.

Hjelm also said that a female juror would remain on the panel even though she appeared to have fallen asleep.

“It appears for a quite brief time she was not with us,” the judge said. He said neither attorney requested that she be taken off the jury.

Jury selection, which started Monday, took a day-and-a-half in Knox County Superior Court.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/11/22/news/midcoast/jury-handed-cushing-shotgun-murder-case/ printed on September 23, 2014