Judge Clarifies Law In Murder Trial

Jurors in the Alexander Pring-Wilson murder trial received a clarified set of instructions from the judge yesterday as they completed an anxious third day of deliberations in the case of the former Harvard graduate student.

Middlesex Superior Court Judge Regina Quinlan told the jury she would make available a transcript of her original instructions for their review. And Quinlan spent nearly a half hour yesterday elaborating on the prosecution’s burden in proving Pring-Wilson did not act in self-defense when he fatally stabbed a Cambridge teenager in April 2003.

Reconvening after the long weekend, the jury still appeared confused over the nuances of Mass. law which could justify homicide as self-defense.

Lawyers for Pring-Wilson on Friday called for a mistrial in light of the jury’s confusion, but Quinlan immediately dismissed the motion. Yesterday she said her clarification, along with the transcript of her original instructions, should be sufficient to clear up any of the jurors’ remaining questions.

“The issue is whether a defendant’s use of force reasonably seemed to be the only means to protect himself under the circumstances,” Quinlan told the jury.

She said the burden was on the prosecution to prove Pring-Wilson had not exhausted “all reasonable means of escape” and was not in “imminent danger of serious bodily harm.”

Pring-Wilson and members of his family spent most of yesterday waiting in the cafeteria in the Middlesex County Courthouse as the jury continued their deliberations.

Pring-Wilson could face life imprisonment if convicted of first-degree murder. The jury is also considering charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

—Staff writer Zachary M. Seward can be reached at seward@fas.harvard.edu.