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Student Accused in Stabbing Says He Acted in Self-Defense

The New York Times

Wednesday, October 26, 1994

By Jacques Steinberg

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y., Oct. 25 – A lawyer for the 17-year-old student charged with fatally stabbing another student at Mount Vernon High School on Monday said today that his client had acted in self-defense after being attacked by the victim and several other students in a hallway.

But the Mount Vernon Police Chief, Michael J. Craparo, said it was not clear whether the victim, [Deceased], had been one of at least four youths who had accosted the suspect, [Defendant].

That fight, in which [Defendant] was cut on the forehead, led to the stabbing of [Deceased], the police said. [Deceased], also 17, was a star center fielder on the school baseball team.

The mood at Westchester County’s largest high school – it has 2,600 students – remained tense. An undercover police officer and a reinforced detail of 32 security guards patrolled the hallways and detectives continued their investigation, interviewing more than a dozen witnesses.

After a fire alarm sounded, more than 50 students left the school and marched about a half mile to the Board of Education headquarters to protest safety conditions. The police said that the 10-minute demonstration, which included several adults, had been peaceful and lasted about 10 minutes.

At the red-and-tan-brick school, a team of psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors visited classrooms to soothe jittery nerves.

Some students spoke of the need for metal detectors, a measure that has been rejected in the past by the Board of Education. But others said that their fears – fanned over the years by glimpses of smuggled knives and box cutters – would not be eased by security devices alone.

“We have to start with the mentality of the students who go here,” one young woman said at a group counseling session. She added that even with metal detectors students would find a way to smuggle in weapons.

At his arraignment in Mount Vernon City Court this morning, [Defendant] pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. He was ordered held without bail pending a preliminary hearing on Monday.

In an interview, [Defendant’s] lawyer, Todd Greenberg, asserted that [Deceased] had been part of the group that had attacked his client and provoked the stabbing. He said that [Defendant] – who was cut above the right eyebrow and required about five stitches – would probably mount a self-defense defense.

Chief Craparo said that in the moments before [Deceased] was stabbed, [Defendant] was cornered against a wall by his attackers, knocked to the ground and slashed with a knife wielded by someone [Defendant] has been unable to identify. [Defendant] wrested the knife away and, moments later, stabbed [Deceased] three times in the neck, the chief said.

Investigators have not yet determined whether [Deceased] was one of [Defendant’s] assailants or someone who got caught in the second-floor hallway at the wrong time, the chief said.