Lawyers representing a Park City man accused of murder say he was only defending himself when he stabbed a 22-year-old man in the heart this summer.
Defense attorney Ron Yengich wants a judge hearing the case against Max A. Johnson, 35, to either dismiss the murder charge or reduce it to manslaughter. Prosecutors say Johnson killed Brandon Sweat on June 20 in an apartment rented by Johnson's ex-wife.Sweat, much larger than Johnson and accompanied by two friends, knocked Johnson to the floor of the apartment just moments before Johnson struck out with an 8-inch butcher knife, according to testimony Monday in a preliminary hearing.
The incident occurred after Sweat and his friends spent the day drinking beer and liquor in an apartment upstairs.
"These three guys that entered that apartment (the ex-wife's) had no business there," Yengich said.
Johnson's ex-wife, Lisa Mancebo, testified that she did not invite Sweat or his friends into the apartment and that she had welcomed Johnson for the evening to visit her and their two daughters.
Her testimony contradicts that offered by Sweat's friend, Brent McDonald, who stood four feet from him when he was stabbed.
McDonald said Mancebo drank with them in their upstairs apartment earlier in the evening and expressed concern that Johnson might become violent. He said the woman told the trio she would call them if she needed help to make Johnson leave her apartment and that she invited them in when they knocked on her door.
But Mancebo testified she had been dating Johnson, despite their divorce; that she planned to spend the evening with him and that the trio was not welcome in her apartment.
The stabbing occurred about 20 minutes after Mancebo returned to her apartment after drinking with the trio.
Third Circuit Judge Robin Reese will decide by Jan. 10 whether to bind Johnson over to face trial on the first-degree-felony murder charge.