AUBURN, Maine — A defense witness told a jury Wednesday that Robert “Buddy” Edwards Jr. started the fight that led to his stabbing on June 19, 2011.
Hannah Parent testified in Androscoggin County Superior Court that Edwards was angry, drunk and provoking a fight when he confronted Raikuez Melchoirre during a party at her 73 College St. apartment in Lewiston. Shortly after that fight was broken up, she said, Edwards ambushed Melchoirre and started beating him again.
“He started it,” Parent said, “but he didn’t deserve what happened.”
Moments after that ambush, police say, Melchoirre stabbed Edwards about 20 times with a pocket knife.
Melchoirre, 36, is on trial, charged with elevated aggravated assault.
Edwards, who was 22 at the time, suffered stab wounds across his body, including to the face, chest, shoulders, stomach and knee. He spent about a week in the hospital, underwent several surgeries and spent four or five months in a wheelchair.
A grand jury indicted Melchoirre in 2011. Last March, he 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, he has been in jail.
Defense lawyer Maurice Porter has argued to the jury and Justice Carl Bradford that Melchoirre used his knife that night because he thought he might die.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis has argued that Melchoirre continued to stab Edwards even after he was down and no longer a threat.
The state wrapped up its case Tuesday by calling three Lewiston police officers who responded to the scene, the Lewiston detective investigating the stabbing and the surgeon who first treated Edwards at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.
Police testified that Edwards was on the second floor, unconscious, slumped against the wall and covered in blood, when they arrived. Police said they found Melchoirre outside, calm and cooperative, with a head injury. They said Melchoirre confessed to the stabbing and pointed them to the knife across the street.
The surgeon testified that one stab wound to Edwards’ stomach was so deep that it had pierced the small bowel and one stab wound to his jaw was so deep that it cut down to the bone.
The defense opened its case by calling Parent, who lived at 73 College St. with her boyfriend and roommate. She said she arrived home from work that night to find the party in full swing.
“Everybody was already there and doing their thing,” she said. That included drinking.
She said Edwards became angry when Melchoirre poured some beer outside from an upper floor and it came down near him.
“He said, ‘Do you want to see me beat up a black guy?’ Used a racist phrase,” Parent said.
She said Edwards confronted Melchoirre on the third floor, repeatedly using a racial slur. Melchoirre pushed him away, she said. The two started to fight. At one point, she said, it escalated when Edwards grabbed Melchoirre and tried to toss him over the staircase railing.
Other party-goers broke up the altercation, telling the two to take their fight outside. Parent said she saw Edwards go downstairs to the second floor and Melchoirre follow soon after. She said Edwards ambushed Melchoirre on the second floor, jumping on him when his back was turned.
During that altercation, one of the party-goers hit Melchoirre in the head with a baseball bat. Parent said Buddy appeared to be winning the fight until Melchoirre stabbed him.
She said Edwards hit the wall and slid down “like he was just done.” Melchoirre, she said, continued to stab him.
The trial will resume Thursday. Porter, the defense lawyer, said Wednesday he was not certain his client would take the stand.