Mistrial declared in Lewiston stabbing case

Posted Sept. 23, 2013, at 4:36 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 23, 2013, at 7:30 p.m.
Raikuez Melchoirre listens to Justice Robert Clifford in Androscoggin County Superior Court in August 2012, where he was asking to change his plea.
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Raikuez Melchoirre listens to Justice Robert Clifford in Androscoggin County Superior Court in August 2012, where he was asking to change his plea.

AUBURN, Maine — A mistrial was declared in the Raikuez Melchoirre stabbing trial after three days of deadlocked jury deliberation.

A jury of six men and six women began deliberations on Thursday afternoon in the 2011 case, and by Monday afternoon they reported to the judge in Androscoggin County Superior Court that they were deadlocked.

Justice Carl Bradford had declined to declare a mistrial on Friday after the jury reported it was hopelessly divided. Bradford sent the jurors home for the weekend.

They renewed deliberations shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. An hour later, they sent a note to Bradford asking that the transcript of the testimony of three witnesses be read back to them.

Melchoirre, dressed in a suit, sat in the Androscoggin County Courthouse Law Library as the testimony was read by the court reporter for an hour and a half.

The jury appeared to struggle in reaching unanimity, particularly on the issue of self-defense.

A juror, who declined to be named, said afterward that the jury was split 8-4 in favor of a guilty verdict from the start of deliberations. In order to find Melchoirre had acted in self-defense, jurors would have had to decide that he was justified using at least one of four criteria. Only four jurors were able to do that.

At 3:30 p.m. Monday, Bradford polled the jurors one at a time, and each declared they remained deadlocked on a verdict and were unlikely to resolve their division, at which point the judge declared a mistrial.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said the two sides were negotiating a possible plea deal but were unable to reach agreement on Monday. Negotiations would continue, he said.

Meanwhile, Melchoirre would remain at Androscoggin County Jail on $10,000 cash bail.

Matulis said Melchoirre’s name would be placed on the next available trial list if the two sides don’t agree on a plea. He said it’s always difficult for the state to retry a case, especially when a couple of years have passed since the event and memories continue to fade.

Melchoirre, 35, of Lewiston was on trial for the June 19, 2011, stabbing that left victim Richard “Buddy” Edwards Jr. with multiple wounds to his face, shoulders, knee, chest and abdomen.

Prosecutors portrayed the stabbing as a vicious attack by Melchoirre against Edwards.

After his first stab wound to the stomach, Edwards was hurt, bleeding and incapable of defending himself, Matulis said.

Defense attorney Maurice Porter painted an image of Edwards as a drunken thug and the incident as an “ambush,” during which Edwards leaped from the dark and jumped on the back of Melchoirre.

After drinking for hours at a party at 73 College St. in Lewiston, the two men ended up in a fistfight, then later fought again. During the second fight, Melchoirre stabbed Edwards, witnesses said during 2½ days of testimony.

The jury asked Bradford to repeat his instructions on self-defense and also wanted a closer look at a buck knife — the apparent weapon — recovered at the scene.

On Friday, the jury asked to re-hear the testimony of two witnesses to the stabbing and again asked for more information on self-defense.

On Monday, the jury asked for additional testimony to be read back before finally telling the judge they could not reach a decision.

If convicted of elevated aggravated assault, Melchoirre faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. He has been held at the Androscoggin County Jail on $10,000 bail since his arrest.

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