AUBURN, Maine — The stabbing trial of a Lewiston man began Tuesday with pictures of Robert “Buddy” Edwards Jr.’s wounds: on his face, shoulders, knee, chest and abdomen.
Edwards, the first witness in 36-year-old Raikuez Melchoirre’s long-delayed trial, testified Tuesday that he had only vague memories of the June 19, 2011, fight that broke out at a friend’s beer party at 73 College St. in Lewiston.
At first, he didn’t even know he was being stabbed.
“I thought he was just punching me in the stomach,” Edwards, who was 22 at the time, told the jury. “We were just fighting. I was defending myself, putting my hands up. Then, I found out that it was a knife when it started hitting the bones in my fingers.”
Edwards suffered about 20 stab wounds, spent about a week in the hospital, endured several surgeries and spent four or five months in a wheelchair. He said he continues to suffer painful nerve damage to a hand and knee.
In August 2011, a grand jury indicted Melchoirre on a charge of elevated aggravated assault. Last March, Melchoirre entered a guilty plea, a hybrid called an “Alford plea,” that allowed him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging that the state had enough evidence to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Meanwhile, Melchoirre has been in jail.
On Tuesday, defense lawyer Maurice Porter argued to the jury and Justice Carl Bradford that Melchoirre used his knife that night because he thought he might die.
Melchoirre had already suffered a beating at Edwards’ hands that night, Porter said in his opening remarks.
“He reached into his pocket and took out a knife that was 2½ inches long and used it to defend himself,” Porter said.
However, the self-defense argument will come later in the trial.
After opening remarks from both sides Tuesday, the court heard testimony from Edwards and from several other people who attended the party that night.
They described an easygoing get-together of friends. One of the friends brought Melchoirre, whom none of the other dozen or so guests knew.
Edwards said he argued with Melchoirre after he felt beer dumped on him from a balcony.
The men fought.
Another party-goer broke up the fight. Some people testified that both men were unhurt when it ended. One witness, Brittni Foss, said Melchoirre had a bloody nose and a swollen eye.
A few minutes later, the two men fought again. This time, the blade was used.
By the time police arrived at the apartment building, at about 1 a.m., Edwards was a mess, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said to jurors.
“There was blood pooling beneath his body and he was slowly sliding down a wall,” Matulis said in his opening statement.
The scene was so bad that friends checked Edwards for a pulse as they tried to apply pressure to his many wounds, Foss said.
“All the walls were covered in blood and Buddy was laying on the ground with multiple stab wounds all over him,” she said. “We didn’t know what state he was in because he wasn’t speaking or waking up.”
Moments before he lost consciousness, Edwards recalled pleading with Melchoirre, he said.
“I was telling him to stop,” Edwards said.
“Did he stop?” Matulis asked.
“No,” Edwards said.
Joshua Ruest, who lived at the College Street apartment, testified Tuesday that the incident ended when he ran for a baseball bat and struck Melchoirre in the head.
The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.