Emmanuel Nkurunziza, center, appears Monday in 8th District Court in Lewiston with his lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, center. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Gasps arose from the courtroom Monday when prosecutors showed a color photo of Donald’s Giusti’s battered and bloodied body on a large television screen.

Giusti’s family let out sobs and moans in 8th District Court, where a judge is expected to decide whether there was probable cause to charge Emmanuel Nkurunziza with manslaughter, and whether he should be tried as a juvenile or an adult.

Nkurunziza, who turned 18 in May, had just turned 17 when a melee erupted on Knox Street near Kennedy Park on June 12, 2018, between a group of black teens and white men.

Police said he admitted to throwing a rock during the brawl, but that he didn’t see where it landed. A witness has said he saw Nkurunziza throw the rock and saw it hit Giusti on the head.

Giusti, 38, died three days later from blunt force trauma to his head and torso, Maine’s deputy chief medical examiner testified Monday.

A school resource officer at Lewiston High School who testified Monday identified Nkurunziza in a personal video shown in court that was reportedly taken during the melee.


Officer Matthew Vierling said Nkurunziza had been wearing the “exact description of clothing” that the teen had been wearing at school that morning. Prosecutors earlier showed surveillance video of Nkurunziza walking into Lewiston High School wearing black Adidas sweatpants and a gray hoodie sweatshirt with “Chicago” written across the front. He was carrying a dark backpack.

The first video played in the courtroom showed a group of people running down a street at night. One is shown throwing something. Seconds later, a shirtless man is shown lying on the street, his head on the curb.

The second video, also played by prosecutors, shows someone bending down near the shirtless body, then standing and turning away.

Neither video shows the front of the person Vierling identified as Nkurunziza.

Defense attorney Allan Lobozzo said Vierling only had incidental contact with Nkurunziza at a school of 1,400 students and that he could not be relied upon to positively identify someone wearing typical high school student clothing and carrying a backpack on a dimly lit street.

“We’ve heard absolutely nothing that would distinguish this person on this video from potentially a hundred other students at that high school,” Lobozzo said.


Vierling said he did not recognize any of the voices on the videos, but said he rarely spoke with Nkurunziza at school despite seeing him regularly and often shaking his hand.

“I stand by all the videos as to who I said that was,” Vierling told Lobozzo during cross-examination.

He said he had taken an interest in the group of kids that included Nkurunziza, and had frequent interactions with them at school.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Lisa Funte described in court the external and internal injuries she found during Giusti’s autopsy. She said some impact to the front of his face caused him to fall backward and hit the back of his head on the right side, causing a significant injury.

She said it could have been a rock, but added under cross-examination it also could have been that he was pushed or stomped against a curb.

“I can’t say definitively … what may have caused it,” she said.


Police said several people assaulted Giusti that night, causing a broken rib and collarbone.

Funte said Giusti’s blood alcohol level was 0.13 percent.

Police who responded to the brawl shortly before 11 p.m. testified dozens of people were running around, some still fighting.

“It was chaotic,” Sgt. Wayne Clifford said.

They spotted Giusti lying on his back near the curb, his left cheek and ear covered in blood.

Officer James Avery said Giusti made a loud snoring sound, had a weak pulse and was unresponsive, even when the officer rubbed his knuckles on Giusti’s sternum in an effort to bring him to consciousness.


Before beginning the bind-over hearing, Judge Rick Lawrence heard arguments about whether Nkurunziza should be released from Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn. He was taken there and held in protective custody earlier this month after a fight at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

A video of that fight, recorded by a surveillance camera at the center, was shown in the courtroom. Nkurunziza can be seen walking up to another inmate and confronting him. He pushed the teen, then threw a punch. Afterward, he picked up the teen and threw him to the floor.

Nkurunziza was charged with misdemeanor assault in Portland District Court.

A couple whose children are adults and not living at home has offered to let Nkurunziza live with them at their home more than 20 miles from Lewiston rather than at the jail.

Lobozzo argued Nkurunziza had steered clear of trouble during his two years at Lewiston High School, and during his first 100 days at Long Creek.

He said a racial slur uttered by another juvenile provoked Nkurunziza to uncharacteristic violence.


“There must have been extreme provocation,” Lobozzo said.

The woman who has offered to supervise Nkurunziza at her home around the clock told the judge she doesn’t have any concerns about having him live in her home despite his alleged criminal actions at the youth center.

“I don’t,” she said. “Not at all.”

She said she knew of Nkurunziza and his family through church. Her parents have an orphanage in Zimbabwe, where she has visited many times, she said.

“There are troubled children there, too,” she said. “I just feel he needs a bit of a break.”

Lawrence said he would decide later whether to release Nkurunziza to the couple’s care.

The bind-over hearing is expected to continue Tuesday.

Comments are not available on this story.