HARTFORD – The fate of accused murderer Traistyn George will soon be in the hands of a Superior Court jury.
Testimony ended Thursday and attorneys for both sides finished closing arguments Friday.
George, 21, is accused of fatally stabbing Kevin Rodriguez, also 21, in the driveway of 366 Maple Ave. on Feb. 10, 2012. The confrontation involved dozens of people who had just left a crowded party inside a third-floor apartment at the address. Two men, George and Joseph Rivera, also were stabbed.
Rivera was one of the first witnesses to testify in the trial. He stepped out of the witness stand at Superior Court Tuesday to show how Rodriguez, — his brother-in-law — was fatally stabbed. Bending over slightly, he swung his right hand back and forth in slashing movements.
A DJ at the party who also witnessed the killing helped police identify George through Facebook; the DJ had used the social networking site to invite people. George turned himself in 11 days after the Feb. 10, 2012, homicide and was charged with murder, accessory to first-degree assault and carrying a dangerous weapon. He remains in custody on $1 million bail.
With help from a Spanish-language interpreter, Rivera testified under questioning by prosecutor Richard Rubino that the fatal stabbing happened outside his cousin’s birthday party at his sister’s home. There were 30-35 people in the third-floor apartment, he said.
Shortly after he arrived, he said, he noticed that two people “who had a problem with me” during an encounter two weeks earlier, one of them George. He later testified that during the previous incident, which also happened outside his sister’s house, the men asked him angrily what he was looking at. The men were referred to as “the black men” at times during testimony.
Rivera said at the February party, he and his family wanted to hear “Spanish music,” but “it looked like they got mad” about that because the two men wanted hip hop and reggae music, he testified. In an effort to keep the peace, Rivera said, he told the DJ to play the hip hop and reggae.
Despite that, a half-hour later, “a cat fight started,” Rivera testified. Concerned about his sister’s young children, he went in to break it up. People were told to leave and streamed out through the front door. When his brother-in-law came downstairs “it seems that somebody hit him in the head with a bottle,” he testified.
Rivera picked up a kitchen knife he had brought out but dropped on the ground, he said. The defendant “attacked me, and when he attacked me, he also attacked Kevin,” he said. “I tried to defend myself.”
His sister, Barbara Rivera later cried as she described what happened next. Rodriguez, the father of her children, who was backing up as he tried to fend off his attackers, fell, she said.
“I tried to defend my brother and when I looked to the side, my children’s father was on the ground,” she said.
During cross-examination, defense lawyer Walter Hussey used words like “fight” instead of “attack,” suggesting a mutual combat scenario. Rivera testified that he stabbed George “after he stabbed us” and that he failed to tell detectives he was wounded.
In addition to pointing out such inconsistencies between what Rivera told police and his testimony, Hussey got him to admit he has memory problems.
“I have some problems and sometimes I forget things,” Rivera said.
By Christine Dempsey, Hartford Courant