Frank Gallant’s lawyer argues that his client’s statements after the death of his girlfriend should be thrown out.

AUBURN – On the morning after Cherie Ann Andrews was found strangled to death in her Park Street apartment, her boyfriend told detectives that he wrapped a towel around her neck the night before and tightened it until she stopped screaming.

On Tuesday, Frank Gallant sat in Androscoggin County Superior Court, wearing a bright orange jail uniform, as his lawyer tried to convince a judge that the confession should not be used as evidence against Gallant.

Defense lawyer James Howaniec argued that Gallant’s statements to police should be suppressed because detectives disregarded Gallant’s questions about getting a lawyer and they didn’t bother to give him a Breathalyzer test to make sure he was sober enough to understand what was happening.

“These are excellent police officers, obviously,” Howaniec said at the hearing. “But I’m a little skeptical.”

Maine law bars police from questioning suspects if they request to remain silent until they retain a lawyer or if they are too impaired by alcohol, drugs or other reasons to understand the nature of the interview.

The questions that Justice Thomas E. Delahanty II must decide in this case are whether Gallant was too intoxicated from the beer and pills he took the night before, and whether his question to detectives about getting a lawyer should have put an end to the interview.

Howaniec argued Tuesday that detectives essentially ignored Gallant’s questions about a lawyer in their pursuit of a confession.

“The state’s long-standing policy is to take constitutional rights against self-incrimination very, very seriously,” the defense lawyer said. “The Law Court has consistently said over and over again, ‘We aren’t horsing around when it comes to the issue of whether a person wants an attorney.'”

In an attempt to secure Gallant’s statements as evidence, Assistant Attorney General Fern LaRochelle argued that Gallant was never interrogated against his will.

“Unless there is a clear assertion of a request for a lawyer, police can continue their questions,” LaRochelle said. “His statements were voluntary.”

`Wanted to talk’

Andrews was lying face down on her bed when police found her body on the morning of Jan. 25. She had been covered with two blankets. A teddy bear had been placed by her head, and blotchy red marks could be seen on her neck.

Police arrested Gallant hours later.

According to testimony during Tuesday’s hearing, Gallant made incriminating statements three separate times.

Before the interview at the Lewiston Police Station, Maine State Police Detective Lance McCleish took Gallant outside for a cigarette. While outside, McCleish said, Gallant asked if Andrews was dead, then asked if he might have to spend the rest of his life in prison.

In the middle of the interview, detectives claimed, Gallant asked if it would be in his best interest to get an attorney. They told him it was up to him, then he started answering their questions.

“Frank wanted to talk. I almost had to tell him to shut up so I could set up the video recorder,” Lewiston Detective Brian O’Malley testified Tuesday.

According to court documents, Gallant told police that he and Andrews started arguing on the night of Jan. 24 after drinking and popping prescription pills. He said he tried to walk away from her, but she followed him into the bedroom and told him that she was going to have him arrested.

The detectives claim that Gallant told them that he put a pillow over Andrews’ face because he was afraid neighbors would hear her and call police. Then, when Andrews started screaming again, he said that he grabbed for the towel and wrapped it around her neck until she stopped.

“Did he appear orientated to the time and place and nature of the conversation?” Justice Delahanty asked O’Malley.

“Yes, he did,” O’Malley replied. “He really wanted to tell me everything that happened.”

Gallant also allegedly told a booking officer at the Androscoggin County Jail that he killed his girlfriend.

Howaniec believes this statement should be discarded because Gallant was suicidal and in an altered state of mind. LaRochelle argued, however, that Gallant made the statement without any prompting from the booking officer.

After hearing from both sides, Delahanty said he would watch the videotape of Gallant’s interview, consider the arguments and issue a ruling as quickly as possible.

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