Jury expected to deliberate today in Cruthirds trial

AUBURN — The jury in the Cleveland Cruthirds attempted murder trial is expected to begin deliberations Tuesday without hearing from him.

Cruthirds, 27, formerly of 260 Park St. in Lewiston, has decided he will not testify.

On Monday morning in Androscoggin County Superior Court, after a week of testimony, the state rested its case against Cruthirds, who is accused of stabbing his sometime-girlfriend Naomi Swift in December 2011.

After calling three witnesses, the defense rested its case.

Closing arguments are scheduled to start Tuesday morning.

The state will argue that Cruthirds broke into Naomi Swift’s first-floor apartment at 174 Blake St. and stabbed her 21 times in a fit of jealousy.

The defense will argue that Cruthirds was at a downtown nightclub near the time of the stabbing, that Swift misled police in her statements and that if the Lewiston Police Department’s investigation “wasn’t a railroad job, it was just incompetent” and incomplete.

Cruthirds is charged with attempted murder, aggravated attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault, burglary and violation of bail conditions. He was arrested on Horton Street hours after the attack.

Dressed in a silver-sequined top, Swift, 23, took the stand early Monday to testify about her relationship with Cruthirds and saying he is responsible for her injuries.

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis, Swift said she had been out partying with friends the night before the stabbing and went to bed between 6 and 7 a.m.

She testified that she got up between 4 and 5 p.m. that day and called her friend, Karie Lessard, to come over and watch a movie. Then, Swift said, she showered and had about three drinks before Lessard arrived.

The two were sitting on Swift’s bed, she said, smoking cigarettes and chatting on Facebook with Deshawn Jackson, the father of Swift’s child. Then, Swift said, they started talking about pawning a ring and bracelet Cruthirds left in her apartment.

“The next thing that happened is my bedroom door came flying open and Cleveland was standing in the doorway," she said, accusing her of cheating on him.

“The next thing I remember is Karie screaming that he had a knife,” Swift said, wiping away tears.

Swift testified that when she saw Cruthirds holding a knife, she lay down on her bed and put her hands up to protect her face and “he was over me.”

“I was screaming,” she said. “It felt like forever.”

“What made the defendant stop?” Matulis asked.

“I don’t know,” Swift said, but she decided to pretend she was dead and lay still. When she did, he left the apartment, she said.

Swift said, “I walked around and looked in every room for Karie” before leaving the apartment to look for help.

“I thought I was going to die,” she said, and held her severed right ear to her head because it was hanging down.

“I remember going up to every door until someone answered. ... I was thinking that I wasn’t going to survive unless someone helped me,” she said.

“Is there any doubt in your mind who stabbed you?” Matulis asked.

“No,” she said. “It was Cleveland Cruthirds.”

Matulis played part of the E-911 tape recorded the night Swift was stabbed. At the beginning of it, she could be heard telling the dispatcher that Cruthirds was in her apartment and wasn’t supposed to be there.

Swift is heard telling someone, “You’re not supposed to be in my apartment.” She then can be heard saying Cruthirds’s name and spelling it for the dispatcher.

A male voice on the tape says, “Deshawn. Deshawn. Deshawn.”

Swift then asks, “What are you doing?”

At that point, she can be heard screaming loudly, her screams lasting more than a minute before she is heard saying, “Help me! Help me! Help me!”

Attorneys agreed to stop playing the recording before reaching the end of the call.

When defense attorney John Paul DeGrinney started his cross-examination of Swift, he focused on the ring and bracelet that Swift referred to.

During the police investigation, the ring was found to have Swift’s blood on it. The state has argued that the blood was on the ring as a result of the stabbing; the defense has argued that the blood is menstrual blood that got lodged in the ring when the couple was having sex in the days before the stabbing.

Swift and Cruthirds met in August and developed a sexual relationship, according to testimony, and Cruthirds eventually moved in with Swift.

On Dec. 2, Swift called police to report that Cruthirds had punched her three times in the face. He was arrested that day, charged with domestic violence assault and released on Dec. 7.

DeGrinney asked Swift where Cruthirds’s ring and bracelet were while he was in jail, and she said he left them both on the nightstand in her bedroom.

DeGrinney showed her a property receipt from the Androscoggin County Jail that showed the ring and bracelet had been logged in along with his clothing on Dec. 2 and given back to him when he left on Dec. 7.

DeGrinney pointed out to Swift that the jewelry could not have been in her apartment during the time she said it was. “You remember something that is not a reality,” he said.

After a long pause, she said, “That’s correct.”

“You really want Cleveland to go down on this, don’t you?” DeGrinney said.

“Yes I do,” Swift answered.

For the next several minutes, DeGrinney asked Swift why she never told Lewiston Detective Lee Jones that Cruthirds had left his jewelry at the apartment and had only told Detective Carly Conley about it after learning how important the ring and its blood stain were to the state’s case.

“Are you going to say anything you have to today to convict Cleveland?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

DeGrinney walked Swift through the days leading up to the stabbing, including how much she was drinking and using drugs, and how often Cruthirds was at her apartment.

According to Swift, when Cruthirds was released from jail following the domestic violence arrest, they had sex at least twice between Dec. 7 and 10, even though his bail conditions prohibited contact with her. She admitted she was drinking heavily and using benzodiazepine, a psychoactive drug commonly called benzo, during that period.

Swift acknowledged that when she was brought to the hospital after the stabbing on Dec. 10, her blood alcohol level was .19 and she had benzo in her system.

Throughout her testimony, Swift said she couldn’t remember details of the stabbing or what she told police, and DeGrinney suggested her level of intoxication might have impaired her memory.

“You’re testifying to things you don’t really remember” at all, he said.

After DeGrinney prompted her for an answer, Swift said, “Yes.”

For a half-hour, DeGrinney asked her about discrepancies in her testimony, including whether she had been out with friends or stayed in with them the night before the stabbing and whether Cruthirds had pinned her to the bed. He also asked her whether she had told people that Cruthirds had put the knife in his pocket or told police or the media that Cruthirds had broken her apartment door down.

Swift’s answer to many of DeGrinney’s questions was, “I don’t remember.”

DeGrinney replied, “Your testimony is basically that you don’t remember anything, but that he did it,” pointing to Cruthirds.

“I remember a lot,” she shot back.

When Swift’s testimony was over, DeGrinney moved to acquit his client on all charges.

Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford denied that request.

The defense team called three witnesses, including Lisbon police Officer Jason St. Pierre, who testified to his trained police dog's work at the scene of the stabbing and that no human scent was detected outside the apartment.

Lewiston Detective Carly Conley testified that she wasn’t aware of the information regarding Cruthirds’s ring and bracelet being left in Swift’s apartment until last month when she met with Swift and Matulis in preparation for trial.

Lewiston Cpl. Eugene Kavanagh testified that he and another officer walked the streets between Club VYBZ on Lisbon Street, where Cruthirds was seen around the time of the stabbing, and Swift’s Blake Street apartment in search of evidence, but found none.

When the trial reconvened after lunch, the defense alerted Clifford that it intended to rest its case. Before the jury returned, Clifford asked Cruthirds whether he had made the decision not to testify on his own and whether he understood the implications of not testifying.

Cruthirds said, “I explained myself on the (police interview) audiotape, and my defense proved that what I said was true” about being at Club VYBZ, so he didn’t feel the need to testify.

DeGrinney asked for clarification from Clifford about what the defense might be allowed to present in closing arguments, including the assertion that police “officers and investigators know there was another African-American at the scene (on the day of the stabbing) and that fact went into the ether,” which was never investigated.

“The quality of the investigation was god-awful in this case,” DeGrinney said, and he wanted to ensure he could argue that a number of people knew, or should have known, that “there was another assailant,” but the evidence was never pursued.

“I want to argue the investigation was junk,” DeGrinney said.

Clifford agreed to permit the defense to bring up evidence provided by a surgeon that she had been told there was a second assailant, as well as testimony provided by Swift that a man she called "her baby-daddy" knocked on her apartment door that day.

He also agreed to allow the defense to enter evidence that Swift had received a written threat on her life 10 days after Cruthirds was jailed on the attempted murder charge, and that two different male DNA chromosomes that did not belong to Cruthirds were found on Swift’s bloody shirt after she was stabbed.

The trial is scheduled to continue at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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Thomas Jenkins's picture

Jury expected to deliberate today in Cruthirds trial

You've got to be kidding me. The police can't find the "witness statements" in a trial this important?

This is another example of trying to make filet mignon out of hamburger. Let me make this a little easier.

Taking a beat cop and trying to make him/her into a crack detective in Maine. Just doesn't happen very often.

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