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Sides wrap up stabbing trial; Lawyer: Killing was self-defense.

Byline: Gary V. Murray

WORCESTER - The prosecutor and defense lawyer in the Patrick I. Powell murder trial offered the jury conflicting takes on the evidence in their closing arguments yesterday.

Mr. Powell's lawyer, John G. Swomley, asked the jurors to find that his client, 16 at the time, was acting in defense of himself and a friend when he stabbed Daniel Columbo in the chest during a Jan. 6, 2006, fight a short distance from the 21-year-old Mr. Columbo's home at 26 Carroll St. in Milford.

"Patrick Powell is not guilty of murder. Patrick Powell is not guilty of any crime. Patrick Powell acted in self-defense and defense of another and, in the eyes of our laws, he is not guilty of a crime," Mr. Swomley told the jury during his final summation in Worcester Superior Court.

The lawyer for the now 19-year-old Mr. Powell suggested his client's use of force was reasonable after Mr. Columbo started the altercation by punching Vinnie Ruscitti, knocking him to the ground, then struck Mr. Powell in the face.

Mr. Ruscitti, also charged with Mr. Columbo's murder as a joint venturer, is awaiting trial.

Mr. Swomley asked the jurors to consider that Mr. Powell was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time, after becoming the unintended victim of a shooting several months earlier in Boston, and reminded them of Mr. Powell's testimony that he was not conscious of having a knife in his hand when he inflicted the single stab wound that penetrated more than four inches and into Mr. Columbo's heart.

Assistant District Attorney Eduardo O. Velazquez argued that Mr. Powell "adopted" a plan formulated by Mr. Ruscitti to kill Mr. Columbo and then carried it out.

Three days before the killing, Mr. Columbo confronted Mr. Powell and others after Mr. Powell stole marijuana from a friend of Mr. Columbo, according to testimony in the case.

Mr. Velazquez referred to a statement attributed to Mr. Ruscitti at a Milford High School basketball game hours before the stabbing that Mr. Columbo was "going down" that night.

"What Vinnie said was adopted by his joint venturer, Patrick Powell. Danny did go down in front of his house that night," the prosecutor said.

Mr. Velazquez told the jurors they would have to decide whether Mr. Powell and Mr. Ruscitti approaching Mr. Columbo's car with two others before the fight began was "an act of aggression."

He also said there was no evidence that Mr. Columbo was armed.

"The one thing you have to remember in all of this is it was merely a punch and the response was a knife to the chest, which killed him," he said.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Mr. Powell

NOTE: 2006 INCIDENT
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 17, 2009
Words:451
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