Saying she was outraged, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Linda Giles abruptly ordered a halt to a murder trial today after being told that two witnesses were among the people who were stabbed in downtown Boston Wednesday afternoon.
Instead, she said, she was concerned the wounds suffered by the two witnesses were too severe to allow them to appear in court any time soon.
Giles added, “I am outraged that this could set a precedent that all you have to do to derail a first-degree murder trial in Suffolk Superior Court is to attack some of the participants who are supporters for either side. That sets a terrible precedent, and I am extremely reluctant to [postpone] this trial, but I am basing it on two potential defense witnesses, particularly, who are in the hospital.”
“I have no alternative,’’ Giles said from the bench.
In court, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Mark Zanini said one of the witnesses was stabbed in the back and the second was stabbed in the colon.
Giles is presiding over the first-degree murder trial of Kadeem Foreman and Terrell Rainey, two Dorchester men who are accused of shooting Toneika Jones to death inside the foyer of a building at 183 Harvard St. on May 22, 2010.
Jones was the mother of four young children.
According to prosecutors, a second person, identified only as a 19-year-old man, was shot and wounded during the attack. Prosecutors said the 19-year-old was not among Wednesday’s stabbing victims.
Foreman and Rainey have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said the two stabbing victims were on the prosecution’s witness list and on the witness list filed by Foreman’s defense attorney, which means they could have been called by the prosecution, the defense, or not at all during the trial.
He said investigators have found “no evidence at this point that the attacks were a calculated attempt to derail the trial.”
“The preliminary investigation suggests that a long-term animus exists predating the murder and the trial amongst the parties believed to be involved,’’ Wark said.
Wark said it was also not yet clear where the witnesses in the trial first encountered the other people involved in Wednesday’s violence.
Their attorneys reacted to Giles’s ruling in the courthouse hallway today.
“Both of our clients have made it clear from the start that they are not guilty of these charges that have been lodged against them,’’ said Foreman’s attorney Michael Doolin. “We’re disappointed in what happened [Wednesday]. From our perspective, I think it’s a necessity that this case get postponed due to circumstances that were outlined in court.’’
Rainey’s defense attorney, Stephen J. Weymouth, said in court and to reporters afterward that he wanted to wait a short period of time and possibly let the trial to go forward, with the hope that the stabbing victims would be sufficiently recovered to take the stand by next week.
“I think it was a little premature’’ for Giles to delay the trial, he said. “I understand the stab wounds are serious … but it may be that we find out they will be available by next week ... I would have liked a little more investigation.’’
Weymouth also said Rainey has been waiting to go on trial for 25 months and any further delay is a burden to him.
Jury selection in the Foreman and Rainey trial has been underway this week. Giles today dismissed the nine jurors who had been chosen. Late today, Sept. 12 was set as the new trial date.
The two potential witnesses were stabbed around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday near the intersections of Tremont and Beacon streets.
Boston police said no arrests have been made and that all four victims — described by police as men in their early 20s — are expected to survive.
On Wednesday, blood spattered the sidewalk across from historic King’s Chapel after the stabbings, drawing onlookers with cameras, lawmakers from the State House, and downtown lawyers to the area, which was cordoned off with yellow police tape.John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.