Pierce Stabbing Case Goes to Jury
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BOSTON (AP) _ Jurors began deliberations Wednesday in the case of three men accused of attacking Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce in a nightclub two years ago.
William Ragland, Anthony Hurston and Trevor Watson are on trial for armed assault with intent to murder for the attack, in which Pierce was stabbed at least eight times and hit in the head with a champagne bottle.
Despite being seriously injured in the attack, Pierce returned to play the entire 2000-01 season and led the Celtics in scoring at 25.3 points a game.
The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before going home. They were scheduled to come back Thursday morning.
During the three-week trial, two key prosecution witnesses changed significant portions of their testimony and failed to identify Ragland, Watson or Hurston as Pierce’s assailants. Pierce also testified, and he was unable to positively identify any of the three men.
Defense attorneys said in closing arguments that police rushed to charge the men because of Pierce’s celebrity. Prosecutors, however, said police found the right men after witnesses came forward and identified them as Pierce’s attackers.
The prosecution countered that two key witnesses had changed their testimony because they were afraid of retaliation. The witnesses, Regina Henderson and Krystal Bostick, identified Hurston, Ragland and Watson as Pierce’s attackers when they testified before a grand jury 10 days after the Sept. 25, 2000 attack. Both women changed major portions of their testimony during the trial.
``They can’t take it back,″ prosecutor John Pappas said of their grand jury testimony. Pappas said Henderson had given the grand jury a different story because ``Mr. Hurston, Mr. Watson and Mr. Ragland were not seated five feet away.″
Watson’s attorney, Martin Leppo, said there were no witnesses who could identify his client in court as one of Pierce’s attackers. He acknowledged that one woman said she initially saw Watson making stabbing motions at Pierce with a knife, but later recanted her testimony.
``It happened, but who did it? Certainly, no one has selected Trevor Watson,″ Leppo said.
Hurston’s attorney, John Swomley, noted that even Pierce could not identify Hurston, and said the man Pierce originally identified as initiating the attack was much smaller that Hurston.
``Tony Hurston did not attempt to kill Paul Pierce. There is no evidence of it,″ Swomley said.
Last season, Pierce averaged 26.1 points and helped Boston advance the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 14 years. The Celtics lost to New Jersey in five games.