Jury convicts Harvard grad student of manslaughter in teen's stabbing
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Harvard grad student was spared the possibility of life in prison without parole as a jury cleared him of first-degree murder but convicted him of voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of an 18-year-old father.
Alexander Pring-Wilson, 26, appeared stricken but calm as he was sentenced to six to eight years in prison for the fatal street brawl. He could have received as many 20 years or as little as probation.
Family and friends of the victim, Michael Colono, were visibly upset by the verdict and asked the judge for a stiffer sentence Thursday afternoon.
"Pring-Wilson may be a smart man, but I think he made a big mistake taking a life for egotistical reasons," Colono's older sister, Damaris, told the judge.
The victim's girlfriend, Cindy Guzman, said that whenever she looked at the couple's 4-year-old daughter, Leah Jade, she was reminded of the man who was "the love of my life."
Prosecutors claimed Pring-Wilson stabbed Michael Colono five times, once in the heart, during a late-night street fight on April 12, 2003, because he was angry at the teen for making fun of him as he stumbled drunkenly past in flip-flops and a raincoat.
But Pring-Wilson claimed he acted in self-defense after being attacked by Colono and Samuel Rodriguez, Colono's cousin.
Pring-Wilson maintained he mistakenly approached their car because he thought they were hailing him for directions. He said he reached for the 4-inch Spyderco blade in his pocket after being repeatedly punched and kicked in the head by the Colono and Rodriguez.
Pring-Wilson, an honor student conversant in several languages, had no prior criminal record and was planning to attend law school before he was arrested.
Colono had recently achieved his GED and was a cook at a restaurant on the Charles River at the time of his death.
Damaris Colono highlighted the race, educational and age differences between the two men during an irate plea to the judge.
"The power that a white, smart man with money has is quite disturbing. I understand money is power, but money should not define justice," Colono said.
But Pring-Wilson's lawyer, Ann Kaufman, blasted the notion that the case was a clash of cultures. "This isn't about race or class or privilege or wealth or whatever," she said. Kaufman sniffled and wiped her eyes, once comparing her client to Gandhi, while asking the judge to spare Pring-Wilson a prison sentence.
The defendant's mother, Cynthia Pring, begged the judge for leniency, saying, "I am very frightened that a prison sentence would be a death sentence for him.
The panel of seven men and five women deliberated 21 hours over five days before unanimously reaching their verdict at about 10:00 a.m.
He said, they said
During three weeks of intense testimony, jurors heard vastly different interpretations of what happened between the two men during their 70-second encounter on that rainy spring evening.
Rodriguez painted the defendant as a knife-wielding aggressor who viciously murdered Colono because the teen called him "s——faced." He testified that he was unable to come to his cousin's aid until the last minute because of his car's faulty passenger-door handle.
But Pring-Wilson's defense team attempted to mar Rodriguez's credibility by pointing out his three prior convictions for assault and battery, as well as Colono's prior conviction on a drug charge. The burly bouncer, who held his dying cousin in his arms minutes after they fled the scene, initially lied to police about his involvement in the fight.
Possibly the most damaging blow to Rodriguez's credibility was the testimony of a former neighbor, Shawn Bates, who called police just hours before the stabbing incident after seeing Rodriguez beating up his own girlfriend in front of their apartment building. Rodriguez denied the accusations, and no charges were ever filed.
Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Lynch lobbied a tough cross-examination of the defendant, who took the stand for two and a half hours in his defense. She questioned him about his initial inconsistent statements to police, in which he claimed he was simply an innocent bystander who witnessed a stabbing.
She also mocked his melodramatic reenactment of being attacked — "You enjoyed acting in college, didn't you?" — while pointing out his lack of visible physical injuries, other than a welt on his forehead, although he claimed to have been brutalized.
District Attorney Martha Coakley said she was pleased with the jury's decision, but believed a higher sentence was justified. She also spoke briefly for the victim's family.
"They were disappointed with the verdict. I'm certain they were disappointed with the sentence," Coakley said.
Coakley said her decision to push for first-degree murder stemmed more from the facts of the case and the defendant's behavior after the stabbing than from race or class issues. "Based upon the medical evidence, the wound Colono suffered was a fatal wound. The defendant had to know he was inflicting fatal wounds," she said.
Jurors declined comment to the media about the verdict.
Pring-Wilson appeared somber and somewhat resolute as he was taken into custody. He will immediately begin serving his sentence at Massachusetts Criminal Institute - Cedar Junction, a maximum security prison. He will be eligible for parole in six years.
Jury continues weighing fate of Harvard student who stabbed teen
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A question from jurors and a motion for dismissal from the defense marked the second day of deliberations deliberation(商议)in the trial of a Harvard graduate student who killed an unarmed teenager.
The panel(全体陪审员)of seven men and five women deliberated about six hours Thursday before going home for the long weekend. They will start again Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.
Prosecutors say that Alexander Pring-Wilson, 26, stabbed Michael Colono, 18, five times, once in the heart, during a late-night street fight on April 12, 2003, because he was angry at the teen for making fun of him as he stumbled drunkenly past in flip-flops and a raincoat.
The defendant claims he acted in self-defense(正当防卫)after being attacked by Colono and Samuel Rodriguez, Colono's cousin, who had a history of convictions for assault and battery(殴打).
At about 9:10 a.m., Justice Regina Quinlan received a note from jurors asking for a copy of the jury instructions. Their request was denied.
Quinlan spent about an hour and a half on Thursday reading instructions to jurors. They are charged with reaching a unanimous verdict on one of four choices: acquittal, first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter(一般杀人罪).
Upon reviewing the question, defense attorney Rick Levinson motioned for a mistrial, citing the complex and confusing nature of the instructions. The judge denied the motion.
Jurors have 150 exhibits at their disposal, and were allowed to take notes during the nearly three-week-long trial, although the judge asked them to withhold from notetaking during opening statements and closing arguments. They may ask specific questions about the law, but have not done so yet.
Pring-Wilson faces life in prison without parole if convicted of the top charge. A manslaughter verdict carries a sentence range of parole to 20 years in prison.
By noon, jurors were still working, and court insiders say if they don't reach a verdict by day's end on Friday, they would likely not return until Tuesday after the long holiday weekend.
Court TV is broadcasting the trial live.