LEWISTON — A 12-year-old boy who confessed to police during questioning at Lewiston police headquarters that he started the first of three major downtown arsons did not know that he was free to leave the police station, a clinical psychologist testified Monday.

That point could prove pivotal in the juvenile case against Brody Covey in Lewiston District Court, where his attorney is arguing that Covey’s confession should be thrown out.

Covey’s attorney, Allan Lobozzo, has said in a motion that his client’s confession that he started the fire on April 29 should be deemed inadmissible in court because the detective who interviewed him did not read Covey his Miranda rights – that he needn’t talk and is entitled to a lawyer – until more than an hour and 45 minutes into the interview and after Covey confessed.

Clinical psychologist Andrew Wisch testified on the third day of a hearing on Lobozzo’s motion, about his examination of Covey, who is now 13, at Long Creek Youth Development Center. Covey has been held there since his arrest immediately after his recorded interview with Lewiston police Detective Robert Morin.

“One of the things I asked Brody about the video (of the police interview) was whether he felt he could leave the room,” Wisch said. He said that Covey answered that question by saying, “I had a feeling I kinda couldn’t.”

Covey is charged with three counts of arson for allegedly lighting a fire on the porch behind the condemned building at 109 Blake St., where he lived with his family and faced imminent eviction. That fire spread to destroy two other adjacent buildings, 172 Bates St. and 82 Pine St.

That fire was followed by two other unrelated arsons just days later, on May 3 and May 6. In total, the fires destroyed nine buildings and displaced nearly 200 people.

Police initially brought Covey to the police station to be interviewed as a witness. The video of the interview, played on the first day of the hearing last month, showed the detective making an abrupt shift in his line of questioning, pausing before asking Covey, “Did you set it?”

Wisch testified that although Covey is exceptionally bright for his age, with reading skills in the 99th percentile, most children his age would not know that they could leave a police interrogation without being told so.

Most children, he said, “unless they were told they could leave, would be unaware they could leave.”

Judge Rick Lawrence made no immediate ruling on the motion and asked lawyers to submit arguments in writing. Lobozzo has until Aug. 19 to submit his arguments. The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Melanie Portas, has a Sept. 3 deadline.

Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Lobozzo said that once police considered Covey a suspect, they should have stopped the interview and explained his rights to him to extract an admissible confession.

“Without a confession, it’s a much more difficult case for the state,” Lobozzo said. “This case hinges on the confession.”

If convicted, Covey could be committed to a youth detention facility until he is 21. He has denied the charges.