Griffin Takes Stand in Own Defense, Case To Jury Thursday

Michael Griffin was on the stand for more than 90 minutes recounting his first meeting with Don Belton.

4:45 p.m. update

A last-minute flurry of prosecution witnesses in the Michael Griffin murder trial Wednesday sought to show it was unlikely Don Belton assaulted Griffin before the ex-marine stabbed the Indiana University English professor to death.

After the defense rested its case Wednesday, prosecutors called five more witnesses to the stand.  Michael Griffin’s sister Rita and Bloomington Police detective Mardy Deckard were asked to clarify earlier statements they’d made, while three of Don Belton’s academic colleagues testified about the non-violent nature of his character.

IU English professor Alyce Miller, whose office was three doors from Belton’s, called her former department-mate “neither aggressive nor violent.”  History professor Khalil Muhammad said Belton was more patient with young people than most professors.  And Mara Miller, whose Hawaii home Belton was to visit shortly after he was killed, said her friend was “absolutely incapable of violent behavior.”  Defense lawyer Phyllis Emerick asked Mara Miller if her opinion of Belton would change if she knew he’s assaulted someone half his age.  Miller didn’t hesitate, saying anyone who accuses Don Belton of sexual assault is “lying or lying to themselves.”

The jury will begin considering a verdict in the case Thursday.

12:00 p.m. update

Michael Griffin was on the stand for more than 90 minutes recounting his first meeting with Don Belton in a Bloomington shop, his few vague memories of waking up after Belton’s alleged Christmas evening assault, and the struggle which led to the English professor’s death.

Griffin said he didn’t go to Belton’s home on December 27 intending to harm Belton and said Belton’s first injuries were inflicted when Belton grabbed the blade of a knife that Griffin had drawn to keep the two apart.

The medical examiner presented several photos taken during his autopsy of Belton’s body including detailing the 22 knife wounds which were inflicted. When Griffin saw the same photos on the stand, he began to weep.

Final arguments are scheduled for this afternoon with jury deliberations beginning after that.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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