Jury deliberates into the night in Crown Point stabbing case
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent August 28, 2012 11:22PM
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:35AM
Lake Superior Court jurors deliberated into Tuesday evening in the murder trial of a Crown Point man who raised a self-defense claim in a stabbing on the downtown square early on Thanksgiving morning.
Jurors started deliberating at 1:15 p.m. in the trial of Jeffrey Matthew Nemcek, 23, who was charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of an illegal switchblade knife in the death of Brandon Huseman, 26, of Crown Point. No verdict had been reached after more than nine hours.
Jurors had a week’s worth of testimony and legal issues to sort through in Nemcek’s self-defense claim. Under jury instructions read by Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., the state had to disprove Nemcek was in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury when he stabbed Huseman during a chance encounter after both had been out drinking with friends.
Nemcek’s statement to Crown Point police Detective Ryan Patrick indicates he was protecting himself after being punched in the face and pushed to the ground during an exchange between Nemcek and a group of eight that included Huseman. Nemcek’s shoe, which had the laces loosened, came off. After he put his shoe back on, Nemcek said he pulled out a knife and stabbed the person he thought punched him.
Prosecution witnesses, however, testified Huseman tried to diffuse the situation that involved two other men who got into a confrontation with Nemcek that began over a remark about a designated driver.
At about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 24, after Nemcek had passed the group on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point, Nemcek turned around and asked what they said and raised is hands raised above his head. Prosecution witness Anthony Kuhns, a friend of Huseman’s said he punched Nemcek once after Nemcek stabbed Huseman. Kuhns said he saw Stephen Egan push Huseman. Egan is the cousin of Huseman’s widow.
Egan, however, testified he was unable to remember details in stressful events and couldn’t recall if he pushed Nemcek.
In her closing argument, deputy prosecutor Monica Rogina told jurors if they found that Nemcek was punched before he stabbed Huseman, they should convict him of voluntary manslaughter, which is punishable by 20 to 50 years. “You don’t get to use self-defense because your ego is bruised,” Rogina said.
Defense attorney Kevin Milner blasted two prosecution witnesses who were with Huseman but testified to details of the altercation they were told about but didn’t see themselves. He also blasted some of the witnesses who discussed their versions of the incident prior to testifying.
Milner said the state’s theory that Nemcek made a remark about someone in the group needing a designated driver before involving himself in a confrontation with three men — two of them stood more than 6 feet tall — was ludicrous. “Does he look to you like he’s interested in talking about a designated driver?” Milner said, pointing to his client, an avid fisherman who worked at an appliance store.
Deputy prosecutor Jamise Perkins countered in her closing argument that Nemcek stands 6-foot-4 and could have simply walked away from Huseman’s group. “He’s got an equalizer in his pocket,” referring to the switchblade, an exact replica of which she pulled out and extended the 31/2 inch blade with the click of a button.
Perkins reminded jurors that no one in Huseman’s group saw the knife until after the stabbing.
Huseman’s widow, Kristin, said she thought her husband had been punched three times like “uppercuts.” Brandon Huseman suffered extensive internal damage from at least 11 separate wound tracks and died after surgery.