New London jury begins deliberating in Hinds murder case

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A 12-member jury in New London Superior Court heard closing arguments and legal instructions Wednesday before beginning deliberations in the murder trial of Metese Hinds.

The panel deliberated for just over an hour before Judge Hunchu Kwak dismissed them for the day shortly before 5 p.m.

Hinds, a 48-year-old, is accused of fatally stabbing Raheeim "Rah" General on the second-floor landing of a fire escape at 49 Blackhall St. in New London on Oct. 24, 2017.

The jury, which was seated Feb. 18, will decide whether Hinds is guilty of murder and carrying a dangerous weapon. At the request of prosecutor Thomas M. DeLillo, the judge instructed the jury it could find Hinds guilty of the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter if it determines he's not guilty of intentionally killing General.

About a half-dozen family members and friends of the victim who have been attending the trial said they would be returning to court Thursday to await a verdict.

In his closing argument, DeLillo recapped the testimony of witnesses he said had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Hinds intentionally killed General. He asked the jury not to view each piece of evidence in isolation and that it wouldn't fit together perfectly. Witnesses provided slightly different versions of the event, and there was no evidence to back up statements by two people who watched the fight from the street that Hinds broke a bottle over General's head during the fight.

"Some of the pieces of evidence are unclear," DeLillo said. "Some conflict with others. People can see an event and take different memories from it. People can also describe events differently. You said during voire dire (jury selection) that you would sort through this."

The state alleges Hinds retrieved a knife from the kitchen of the second-floor apartment, where he was staying, after an argument broke while he was drinking with General and others in the third-floor apartment. Three eyewitnesses testified that Hinds stabbed General repeatedly, went inside the second-floor apartment, then returned outside to continue kicking the unconscious General even after police arrived. General suffered stab wounds to the neck, abdomen and left arm, and the state contends that Hinds stabbed himself in the back of the leg during the frenzy.

Hinds claimed General had inappropriately touched a baby in the third-floor apartment that turned out to be General's god-daughter. DeLillo said police found no evidence indicating General had harmed the child. Both men's DNA was found on the shirt Hinds was wearing and on the kitchen knife police seized at the scene, according to testimony.

Hinds had a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.18% and 0.20%, which the state contends was not high enough to impair his ability to formulate intent. Toxicology tests also indicated he had cocaine, marijuana and methadone in his system, though it was unclear when he had ingested them.

His attorney, Robert F. Kappes, highlighted the inconsistencies in his closing argument while expanding on issues he'd brought up during pretrial motions and cross-examination of witnesses. He said the two street witnesses described General's attacker as short and stocky, while noting Hinds looked emaciated in his hospital gown in a videotape of the New London police interrogation.

Kappes said the witnesses had talked about the crime with one another and on social media before giving their statements, and that one man was so drunk, another "filled in the blanks" for him the next day. He said witnesses described Hinds as not being in a normal state of mind and having "eyes bugged out and nostrils flared" during the incident.

"What happens if that wasn't intoxication?" Kappes asked. "What if there is an underlying mental health issue?"

Prior to his trial, Hinds was evaluated by a team of clinicians who reported he expressed unusual beliefs during an interview, but was competent to stand trial and has no history of psychiatric treatment.

k.florin@theday.com

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