Pring-Wilson Takes the Stand

An emotional Alexander Pring-Wilson broke into sobs and gasped for air for nearly a full minute as he testified during his own murder trial yesterday, claiming he acted in self-defense the night he admittedly stabbed Michael D. Colono.

The prosecution alleged Pring-Wilson, a 25-year-old Harvard graduate student at the time of the stabbing, used unnecessary deadly force in stabbing the local Cambridge teen five times—with one stab fatally penetrating the victim’s heart.

Pring-Wilson’s emotional breakdown occurred during cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch, when Lynch asked the defendant to recall a statement he falsely made to police the morning after the stabbing.

While being interrogated by police that morning, Pring-Wilson said he had intervened in a nearby fight and someone “pulled out a knife and put me in my place.”

“They didn’t pull out any knife. You pulled out a knife,” Lynch charged yesterday during the cross-examination.

“Mr. Colono died, didn’t he?” she added. “You put him in his place, didn’t you?”

“I’m so...” Pring-Wilson stammered, breathing heavily. It took the defendant nearly a minute to choke back his sobs and attempt to stifle his moans while everyone in the courtroom remained silent.

Moments before the episode, a soft-spoken and adamant Pring-Wilson recounted the events of the April 12, 2003 stabbing outside a Pizza Ring on Western Ave.

“You stabbed Michael Colono, didn’t you?” Lynch said.

“Unfortunately, I did,” said Pring-Wilson—his voice cracking. “I feel horrible, okay?”

Pring-Wilson proceeded to argue that it was Colono who attacked him. “He comes out of the car, out of control—like really throwing punches,” Pring-Wilson said. “Next thing I know, I was on the ground.”

After receiving permission from Justice Regina Quinlan, Pring-Wilson stood up from the stand and demonstrated to the jury how he allegedly fended off Colono and his cousin, who was also present the night of the attack, and stabbed at them from the ground.

“I was just trying to cover up. That’s what you do, like in rugby,” Pring-Wilson said, flailing his arms around wildly as he knelt on the floor in front of the jury.

“The worst was the guy in the back—he was just pounding me. It was like over and over and over,” he said, loudly pounding his fist onto his palm repeatedly. He added, “What’s going to stop these guys...are they going to stop when I’m dead?”

The defendant then described how he removed his folded knife from his pocket. Admitting his testimony “sound[ed] weird,” he said he stared at the “shining” blade and proceeded to stab at the two gentleman and stumble away.

Throughout the testimony, Lynch attempted to portray the defendant as a liar—calling attention to the fact that the defendant lied to the police on a few occasions and insinuating the defendant was lying again in court.

“In your college days, you liked to act in plays, is that right?” was Lynch’s first question for Pring-Wilson.

Pring-Wilson claimed he lied to the police because he was scared of retaliation from his attackers, adding that he was not thinking clearly due to a concussion. The defense has argued that Pring-Wilson suffered a concussion from the altercation.

“I didn’t want them coming after me,” Pring-Wilson said, sniffling. He later added, “I lied to them because I wanted it to be over.”

Lynch later asked, “A concussion doesn’t make you lie, Mr. Pring-Wilson, does it?”

Lynch also questioned the credulity of the defendant’s claim that he was knocked to the ground, noting that no one was stabbed in the legs or groin but rather that Pring-Wilson got a “lucky stab to the heart.”

“I wouldn’t call it lucky,” Pring-Wilson said, his voice quivering with emotion. “It’s the most horrible thing.”

After his tense three-hour stint on the stand, Pring-Wilson returned to his seat. His defense attorney, Ann P. Kaufman, stroked and patted his back.

Pring-Wilson’s trial is expected to last at least another week.

—Staff writer Robin M. Peguero can be reached at peguero@fas.harvard.edu.