Murder trial of Metese Hinds underway in New London
News of Raheeim General's stabbing death, and the identity of his suspected killer, Metese Hinds, spread quickly throughout the Blackhall Street area of New London on Oct. 24, 2017 — so quickly that the attorney for Hinds contends witnesses interviewed by the police in the aftermath of the crime might have been tainted by what they heard.
As Hinds' murder trial got underway Tuesday in New London Superior Court, defense attorney Robert F. Kappes argued that several witnesses the state may be calling over the next few days should not be allowed to point to Hinds in the courtroom and identify him for the record.
Hinds, who is 48, is accused of fatally stabbing 33-year-old General outside an apartment at 49-51 Blackhall St., New London. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and carrying a dangerous weapon and opted for a jury trial.
General's brother, Jamal Brown, and Hinds' female partner sat on opposite sides of the mostly empty courtroom gallery during the first day of testimony.
Before the jury of 12 regular members and four alternates was led into the courtroom to be sworn in, Kappes cited snippets of detective interviews of people who had been drinking with Hinds and General in the Blackhall Street apartment, or who were in the area, when Hinds allegedly retrieved a kitchen knife and stabbed General repeatedly on the second floor landing of a fire escape.
One potential witness told the police, "I think it was the old guy (Hinds) who did it. I personally did not see it. Right now, if you was to go on Blackhall Street, all you would hear is 'This old guy did it.' Honestly, in my heart I feel it is him."
One interviewee said, "The block talks too much," to which Detective Keith Crandall responded with the Whaling City's other nickname. "It's News London," Crandall said.
A third witness told police he didn't remember hanging out with Hinds that night and wanted to find out from others what had happened.
Another said, "I only know what I hear on the street."
"Any sort of identification (of Hinds) by these witnesses is tainted because of their conversations with one another," Kappes said.
In his arguments, Kappes cited State v. Dickson, a 2016 Connecticut Supreme Court decision in a Bridgeport shooting case that altered the way witnesses identify defendants in court.
Prosecutor Thomas M. DeLillo said the only one of the neighborhood witnesses who would be able to identify Hinds as the person who committed the crime is apartment dweller Cody Lewis. DeLillo said Hinds and Lewis had known each other since kindergarten and Hinds had been staying with Lewis.
Judge Hunchu Kwak said identification of Hinds would not be an issue with Lewis, and that the court would take up the identification with the others as they arise. He said he didn't think the Dickson rule would apply if the witnesses know who Hinds is.
The state's first witness, city police Sgt. Max Bertsch, described how difficult it was for first responders to navigate the metal stairway that had become a crime scene. Working as the street sergeant that night, Bertsch said he was dispatched to Blackhall Street about 7:20 p.m. due to a report of a stabbing.
"While I was approaching the steel stairs, it was dark and it was pouring out," Bertsch testified. "It was difficult to navigate, and I was concerned about one of the officers falling and how do we get (the victim) out of here."
The jury watched dashboard camera footage of Bertsch pulling up behind another police car and leaving the windshield wipers running as he jumped out of the car to assist. When he reached the landing, he found two possible victims. Hinds was on one side of the landing being subdued by an officer and appeared to have been injured. General, lying on his back, appeared to be unconscious and had a very serious wound to his abdomen.
"We were very concerned about his health," Bertsch testified.
General, a father of five children known as "Rah," was pronounced dead less than two hours later at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.
The trial will resume Wednesday and is expected to last seven or eight days. Hinds' attorney had indicated in pretrial motions that he might attempt to argue that somebody else killed General, or might attempt to argue that Hinds may be guilty of a lesser charge because he was overcome by extreme emotion at the time of the killing.