Stanford found not guilty in stabbing trial

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Attorney Tony Naro puts an arm around his client, Marques Stanford, on Monday as the jury in Stanford's stabbing trial found him not guilty on three felony charges stemming from the incident.

NASHUA – The jury in the stabbing trial of Marques Stanford on Monday found the 30-year-old Nashua man not guilty on all three felony charges he faced in connection with the December downtown brawl.

Stanford broke a smile for the first time in the four-day trial, which featured a series of witnesses that ranged from the victim and a couple of his friends to a state criminalist and several Nashua police officers.

Tony Naro, Stanford’s attorney, said both men were relieved and pleased with the verdicts.

“I think the key to the case came down to witness credibility, and physical evidence,” Naro said. “I believe both of those factors pointed to not-guilty verdicts.”

Stanford, who has been held in jail since his arrest the early morning of Dec. 20, was ordered freed by Judge Jacalyn Colburn shortly after the verdicts were read.

Assistant County Attorneys Brian Greklek-McKeon and Cassie Devine, who prosecuted the case, did not object to Stanford’s release.

While Monday’s verdicts effectively end the trial, the parties must return to court on June 20 to address a deferred, 12-month jail sentence pending against Stanford. Prosecutors had sought to impose that sentence shortly after the December incident, noting that by being arrested, Stanford violated the terms of the deferred sentence.

Police who responded to the call on Dec. 20 described a chaotic scene spread out across the intersection of Main and Hollis streets, according to their testimony.

Witnesses told them a man had run across Main Street with another man in pursuit, while others directed them to a man who was bleeding, apparently from a stab wound.

Police eventually arrested Stanford on charges stemming from the incident. The charges on which he went to trial, and was subsequently acquitted, include one count of first-degree assault, a Class A felony, and one count each of second-degree assault and felon in possession of a dangerous weapon, both Class B felonies.

It was mid-afternoon on Friday when jurors began their deliberations, which followed the lawyers’ closing arguments and jury instructions as read by Colburn.

They deliberated for just over an hour before being dismissed shortly after 4 p.m. They resumed deliberations about 9 a.m. Monday, and reached the verdicts shortly after 10 a.m.

During that time, the jury foreperson asked to see Colburn for guidance on how to handle a fairly unusual situation: A juror reportedly compiled a list of notes to share with fellow jurors, a practice that is not allowed during the trial or in deliberations.

After reviewing the foreperson’s report and discussing the matter with the attorneys, Colburn ordered the notes confiscated and destroyed, after which jurors would continue their deliberations.

Naro, McKeon and Devine agreed to the ruling.

Barely 10 minutes later, jurors informed the judge they’d reached the verdicts.

The parties filed into the courtroom moments later, followed by a dozen or so spectators, some of them fellow attorneys who had followed the case.

When the foreperson read the first not-guilty verdict – to the count of first-degree assault – Naro put his arm around Stanford’s shoulders. Upon hearing the other two verdicts, Naro turned and embraced Stanford for several seconds.

McKeon and Devine declined comment as they left the courtroom.

Naro said both he and his client experienced emotional ups and downs throughout the trial, especially when it came time to wait for the verdicts to come down.

“It’s been nerve-wracking for me … so I can’t imagine what it’s been like for Marques,” Naro said, adding that Stanford is already looking to the future.

“He’s looking forward to rebuilding his life,” he said.