Prosecutors in the murder trial against Johnathan Dawkins say that Dwayne Brisbon just stopped to check on the welfare of a perfect stranger and it cost him his life. But Dawkin’s defense attorneys say Dawkins stabbed Brisbon in self-defense after a second man held him while Brisbon beat him that night.
After four days of trial, it is now up to jurors to decide whether Dawkins acted to safe his own life, or whether he purposefully brought a knife to a fist fight, as prosecutors have alleged.
Brisbon, 33, was found stabbed in a crashed car at the 500 block of Florida Avenue Northwest, around 2:15 a.m. on May 1, 2012. Dawkins is charged with voluntary manslaughter while armed in connection with his death.
On the stand, Dawkins told jurors he did stab Brisbon that night, but he only took out his knife when Daniel Cheek pinned his arm while Brisbon punched him repeatedly.
“He wasn’t in fear for his life until a second man attacked him,” said defense attorney Judith Pipe, “He did what the law allows him to do when acting in self defense.”
According to prosecutors, the fight began when Brisbon saw Cheek and Dawkins arguing on the side of the street and pulled over to ask Cheek if he was OK. Cheek told jurors that upsetted Dawkins and he began cursing at Brisbon who eventually got out of his car and punched Dawkins in the throat.
“No good deed goes unpunished, and nowhere is this more true than in this case” said prosecutor Holly Schick during her closing arguments.
Cheek testified that before the stabbing, he did try to break the two men apart, but when the altercation became physical he stepped aside.
A video Dawkins took of himself the morning after the incident showed a bruise on his left arm. Pipe asked jurors during her closing argument to focus on the small scrapes around Dawkins bruise, because it is proof that Cheek not only held Dawkins but dug his fingernails into his arm.
During trial, prosecutors said Dawkins had knowledge of self-defense law when he made the home video of his injuries, and that he knowingly discarded the knife and his bloody clothes, evidence that prosecutors could have used against him in this case.
And after Dawkins discovered he was sought by police, he later tried to conceal his identity by shaving his beard and cutting his hair, according to prosecutors.
Louis Falls testified that he saw a video released by MPD on the news in connection with Brison’s death and recognized Dawkins.
Falls said he met up with Dawkins to “give him a heads up” about the video, and they watched it together on Falls’ phone, with Dawkins asking “How can you tell it’s me?” according to Falls.
Dawkins told Falls that he had asked for cigarettes from a man in a car when that man started shouting obscenities at him and then gotten out and started swinging, so he stabbed him, according to Falls. Falls said that Dawkins didn’t know if the man had died because he had run away immediately after.
Jurors are scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Additional reporting by Dana Jennings.