Stabbing Defendant Represents Himself in Bench Trial

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A bench trial for a non-fatal stabbing defendant began on July 8, with the defendant representing himself and testifying on his own behalf before DC Superior Court Judge Jason Park.

James Campbell, 43, is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and assault with significant bodily injury for his alleged involvement in a non-fatal stabbing on July 19, 2023, that occurred near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Warder Street, NW. One individual sustained injuries during the incident. 

The prosecution’s opening statement described the victim as a “caring” individual who approached Campbell out of concern for his health. According to the prosecution, the victim was forced to defend himself against a sudden attack from Campbell, sustaining a puncture wound to the arm from the incident.

“I was simply sitting under a tree on a hot day,” Campbell responded in his opening statement, when the victim, a man he claimed was much larger than him, approached him. 

According to Campbell, the victim was standing over him and would not leave him alone despite telling the victim multiple times to leave. Campbell stated he had acted in self-defense, using “just enough force” to get the victim away from him.

Following opening statements, the prosecution called on the victim to testify. 

He narrated that he was riding his bike home from the gym when he saw a man, identified later as Campbell, on the side of the road who “looked like he needed help.” The victim testified he observed Campbell almost fall into the street, looking unconscious.

According to the victim, he approached Campbell and asked if he needed help, standing approximately five to six feet away. He described Campbell as hunched over, rocking back and forth, and disheveled.

The victim said Campbell responded in an “aggressive manner” and grabbed a hold of his bike. The victim tried pushing Campbell away with the bike with the altercation moving into the middle of the street. The victim testified to grabbing a hold of the bike and hitting Campbell with it, causing a laceration on Campbell’s head.

After Campbell was hit, the victim testified, the defendant pulled a knife out of his pocket and began swinging it at the victim. The victim tried using his bike once again as a shield, but Campbell reached through the bike and stabbed the victim in the arm.

“I was fearing for my life, I didn’t think I was going to make it home,” the victim testified.

An individual in the area exited his car and went to the scene to help the victim, who pinned Campbell down on the ground, he testified. The individual stepped on Campbell’s wrist and got the knife out of his hand. The victim then got back on his bike and rode away, seeking medical attention.

The victim said he sustained a puncture wound to the arm, along with multiple large bruises to this arms, legs, and chest. He received four internal stitches and six external stitches where he was stabbed.

During cross examination, the victim testified that he remembered Campbell telling him, “you hit me, you touched me, you can’t do that, just leave me alone, get away.” He also agreed with Campbell that Campbell had not physically touched him before Campbell was hit with the bike, but the victim stated Campbell was “physically intimidating.”

The prosecution also called an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) who responded to the scene and an eyewitness who recorded the altercation on his phone. Both witnesses stated that Campbell appeared to be under medical duress and was the aggressor in the situation.

After the prosecution rested their case, Campbell made a motion for acquittal.

Pertaining to the assault with significant bodily injury charge, Campbell argued that the prosecution did not call any expert witnesses to testify to the severity of the victim’s injuries. He also argued that because the victim was able to ride away on his bike, his injuries were not significant.

Pertaining to the assault with a dangerous weapon charge, Campbell testified that he was in fear of significant injury. He stated that the victim did not move away from him after requesting multiple times that he leave. He also argued that the knife was used in response to the victim hitting him with his bike, causing a laceration to his head.

Judge Park denied the motion for acquittal.

Because Campbell was representing himself in court, he chose to deliver his testimony as a statement of facts. Campbell began by repeating that he was “sitting under a tree on a hot day, minding my own business” when the victim approached him with a “weird look.” He asked the victim to leave, feeling that “something wasn’t right” with the victim.

He testified that he had originally grabbed the victim’s bike to encourage the victim to leave him alone. The victim then swung his bike at Campbell and hit him in the head. Campbell was blinded in one eye due to the blood from his wound and dirt.

He further stated that the brandishing of the knife was also to encourage the victim to get away from him, stabbing the victim in the arm in an attempt to get the victim to drop the bike.

Lastly, Campbell admitted a photo of a pocket knife into evidence, which was not the knife used to stab the victim, that was recovered from his person by MPD officers. He stated that after being disarmed with the first knife, he still had a second knife on his person that he did not use. He testified that he could have attacked the victim again if he wanted to, but did not want to escalate the situation further.

During cross examination, the prosecution went through Campbell’s criminal record, consisting of approximately 15 convictions including car theft, prison escape, destruction of property, receiving stolen property, and possession of cocaine.

Campbell denied speaking with police about the incident, but video footage from an MPD officer’s body-worn camera showed a conversation between Campbell and the officers. In the video, Campbell stated that he did not remember where he was or how he got there, nor how he received the gash on his head.

In his response statement, Campbell said that all of the evidence showed that he was experiencing a medical issue, specifically a “mental health episode.” Campbell then revealed that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. He insisted that he was not in his right mind during the incident and felt that he was in danger from the victim.

Parties are slated to return July 9 for closing statements.

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