Troy Michael Kell said from the witness stand Wednesday he was the victim of a race-motivated conspiracy before he stabbed a fellow inmate to death two years ago.
Kell, 30, is accused of killing Lonnie Blackmon at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. He said Wednesday from the stand that Blackmon "wanted to make an example of me for some reason or another."Kell said Blackmon, who is black, campaigned with other black prisoners to take over the tier he was housed in. "He felt it was necessary to make an example of me. I told him, `You want to get wet, we'll get wet.' He said, `Yeah, let's get wet.' That meant he was going to make me bleed and make a move on me," Kell said.
The handcuffed Blackmon was attacked within seconds of being released from his cell for a doctor's visit on July 6, 1994.
Witnesses testified Kell straddled the man and "systematically" jabbed him with a dull, 3-inch-long shank. An autopsy revealed 67 separate wounds to his upper body. More than 50 were concentrated around the man's eyes and neck - all delivered in no less than a minute and a half.
State medical examiner Maureen Frikke testified Blackmon bled to death from jabs which perforated his jugular vein and severed the carotid artery. Other wounds across Blackmon's nose opened the skin to the bone and one stab punctured his left eye, draining it of fluid.
"Most of the injuries were not lethal and a reasonable person knows that," Frikke testified Tuesday, noting Blackmon was conscious throughout the stabbing and therefore endured "intense" pain.
"Our face is our primary means of interacting with our environment. It is far more sensitive to pain and touch than any other part of our body, except our fingertips."
If Blackmon had survived, he probably would have been blind and permanently disfigured, Frikke testified. His face also would have been extremely sensitive to touch or pressure.
Prosecutors hope the graphic testimony and the video convinces the jury to not only convict Kell of capital murder but also to sentence him to death. Under Utah law, the 12-member panel must unanimously agree to the existence of at least one aggravating circumstance before they can find a person guilty of a capital offense.
Four such circumstances exist in Kell's case, according to the state. Primary among them is that the alleged crime was carried out in a heinous, atrocious or exceptionally-depraved manner.
Prosecutors are expected to emphasize in closing arguments Thursday that the 26 facial and eye wounds show heinousness.
Defense attorney Stephen McCaughey's line of questioning tended to highlight Blackmon's imposing frame, which was 6 feet 1 inch tall and 235 pounds.
McCaughey argued when the trial began last week that Blackmon had repeatedly threatened Kell, a Caucasian. Four current inmates testified Tuesday they in fact heard Blackmon threaten Kell several times.