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Defense attorney not 'impressed' with bloody shoe print evidence in Hinds murder trial

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The attorney for accused killer Metese Hinds was not impressed Monday with the state Forensic Science Laboratory comparison of Hinds' shoes with a photo of a bloody shoe imprint left on the kitchen floor of a New London apartment.

The testimony came during Hinds' trial in New London Superior Court for the Oct. 24, 2017, stabbing death of Raheeim General.

As prosecutors began to call forensic experts to the witness stand Monday, defense attorney Robert F. Kappes tried to keep from the jury the testimony of Lisa Ragaza, an imprints and firearms examiner with the state forensic lab who is certified in footwear comparison.

According to previous testimony, Hinds and General were drinking together in a third-floor apartment at 49 Blackhall St. when a fight erupted. The third-floor tenant asked them to leave, and a few minutes later, General was stabbed on the second-floor landing of a metal fire escape staircase that serves as the main access on the front side of the apartment building.

A witness testified last week that after a scuffle on the fire escape, Hinds went into the kitchen of the second-floor apartment, where he'd been staying, retrieved a knife and stabbed General repeatedly.

Police arrested Hinds after he was treated for a stab wound to the back of his leg and seized his clothing, including the shoes he was wearing. Detective Richard Curcuro processed the crime scene, taking photos of the bloody shoe imprints on the kitchen floor kitchen of the second-story apartment.

After the stabbing, Hinds retreated into the apartment, but came back out and continued kicking General as he lay unconscious on the landing and Officer Michael Lewis attempted to provide first aid, according to testimony. Hinds also told someone had stabbed him from below as he stood on the metal staircase. 

Prior to the footprint expert's testimony Monday, defense attorney Kappes asked Judge Hunchu Kwak to send the jury out of the room so he could question Ragaza prior to her testimony. After she confirmed she would be comparing the outsole of the shoes seized from Hinds following the stabbing with photographs of bloody footprints, he argued that the jury could take the shoe and compare it to the picture themselves, and that Ragaza's testimony that the imprint "could" have been made by the shoe is insufficient for admissibility in court.  

Prosecutor Paul J. Narducci argued the "courts have almost universally allowed for that type of comparison," and said that taken together with evidence from the forensic lab that the blood on the shoe and kitchen floor is Hinds', should be sufficient.

The judge allowed the testimony, noting that Kappes would have the opportunity to cross-examine Ragaza. When the jury returned, Ragaza testified the bloody imprint could have been made by Hinds' right shoe, since the partial zig zag and lined pattern left behind on the floor corresponded with the design on the bottom of shoe.

"It corresponded with the outsole design and physical size and physical shape," she testified. She went on to say the imprint could have been made by any shoe with the same characteristics.

The jury also watched a two-hour video of an interrogation conducted on Hinds by New London police Detectives William Pero and (the now retired) Keith Crandall. Interviewed on the morning after General's death, Hinds didn't confess to stabbing General, though he called him "the devil" after being shown his picture. Hinds insisted that General should not be touching a baby who lived on the third floor.

The child's mother, third-floor tenant Jackie Lopez, testified last week that General was the baby's godfather. Hinds said that as he walked by the bedroom, General was changing the baby's diaper and touching her sexually after pretending he had poured too much baby powder on her.

Also testifying Monday was Mark Anderson, supervisor of chemistry for the state forensic laboratory, who said blood and urine samples indicated that Hinds had a blood alcohol concentration of .18 percent as well as marijuana, cocaine and methadone in his system.

The murder trial resumes on Tuesday.

k.florin@theday.com

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