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Day 8 of Nicolae Miu's Apple River stabbing trial features closing arguments; case handed to jury

Prosecution, defense deliver closing arguments in the Apple River Stabbing Trial of Nicolae Miu
Prosecution, defense deliver closing arguments in the Apple River Stabbing Trial of Nicolae Miu 02:15

UPDATE (11:15 a.m. Thursday) — Nicolae Miu has been found guilty of multiple criminal charges, including homicide, in the 2022 Apple River stabbings in Wisconsin. Read the updated story here.

HUDSON, Wis. — Attorneys had one last chance on Wednesday to convince a Wisconsin jury whether 54-year-old Nicolae Miu should go to prison for murder.

Miu took the stand on Tuesday to defend himself for the stabbings that occurred on the Apple River near Somerset on July 30, 2022. Isaac Schuman, 17, was killed and four others, all in their 20s, were injured: Dante Carlson, Tony Carlson, A.J. Martin and Ryhley Mattison.

Miu is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Schuman's death and four counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

RELATED: Who is Nicolae Miu, man on trial for killing 1, stabbing 4 on Apple River?

The state seeks to prove Miu was the aggressor that day, while the defense is arguing he stabbed the five people in self-defense.

Miu pleaded not guilty to all charges in September 2022.  

WCCO will have live coverage throughout the trial, which you can watch in the video above, on CBS News Minnesota, Pluto TV or the CBS News app on your phone or connected TV.

Nicolae Miu Court TV

Prosecution unsuccessfully moves to strike juror

The prosecution moved to strike one of the jurors on Wednesday morning.

Attorney Karl Anderson said juror 4021 repeatedly fell asleep while court was in session on Tuesday.

Investigator John Shilts was called as a witness for the prosecution. 

"I observed one of the jurors with her head down and she would startle up," Shilts said.  

Investigator John Shilts WCCO

Shilts says the juror fell asleep "four or five times" during the testimony of Brandie Hart, a special services lieutenant with the St. Croix County Sheriff's Office. Hart interviewed Miu and his then-wife after the stabbings.

Shilts said he saw the juror "chin down, eyes closed" while the prosecution played a 56-minute video of Hart's interview with Miu.

Judge Michael Waterman agreed with the defense's position that there wasn't enough evidence to strike the juror and denied the motion.

Waterman said it wasn't live testimony, and the juror can request to watch the video again in the deliberation room.

Waterman then spent about an hour, including a brief recess, giving the jury its instructions before closing arguments began.

The prosecution's closing arguments

Prosecutor Karl Anderson, who gave the opening statement, also gave the closing arguments on Wednesday.

Anderson called back to the rhetorical question he asked at the start of the trial: Why didn't Miu just walk away?

Anderson also called back to Miu's testimony on Tuesday that he was "standing his ground," even though Wisconsin is not a "stand your ground" state.

While he conceded that the group of teens in Schuman's group insulted and humiliated Miu, and two women in the Carlson group approached him and put their hands on him, Anderson said those were not justifications for Miu's violent reactions.

"Nicolae ran up on these boys…they didn't run up on him, he ran up on them because they were insulting him. He was angry," Anderson said.

Anderson underlined multiple times that Miu was reacting in retribution for being humiliated, not for self-defense.

He also hammered home that Miu couldn't have feared for his life if he was comfortable enough to turn his back on members of the Schuman and Carlson groups on multiple occasions before he struck Madison Coen. He also highlighted that Miu lied to Coen when she first approached him, claiming the teens took his snorkel.

Anderson showed a grainy video taken by another group on the river that appeared to show Miu seeking out Dante Carlson to stab him.

"He turned his back on them multiple times facing water, he was told to leave multiple times. Instead, he took out his knife. That is not reasonable," Anderson said.

He said despite no video evidence that he struck Coen, several witnesses — including a member of Miu's group — testified that Miu did hit or push her with "violent" force. Anderson said Miu also essentially admitted during his testimony to pushing her. Anderson said this proves Miu provoked the violence.

"This all started when Nicolae punched Madison, whether it was the right hand or left hand," Anderson said. "Nicolae was not in fear. He snapped. He was angry and he snapped, and he knew it."

Anderson said all Miu had to do was pull out his knife and yell "Get back." Instead, he was silent and appeared to be smirking, even when holding the knife before hitting Coen. Anderson said this proves Miu did not have that "10 out of 10" fear level that he claimed during his testimony on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Karl Anderson WCCO

He said Miu had an open route to escape before using his knife and he wasn't under threat of great bodily harm or death since he was the only armed person.

"He's not in an alley with no way out, people blocking his exit," Anderson said.

Anderson said the defense mischaracterized Schuman's confrontation with Miu when they claimed the teen was trying to strangle him, which Miu himself never told investigators. Anderson showed footage of Schuman pushing Miu after the stabbing began, and Schuman appeared to grab his throat as Miu stabbed him in the heart.

"Issac was justified in using any level of force. He just saw Nicolae stab two people who posed no threat to Nicolae," Anderson said.

Anderson said Miu had the intent to kill when he stabbed Schuman.

"There's no other intent when you stab someone in the heart than to kill," Anderson said.

He also said he showed intent to kill the four other victims due to the severity of their injuries, and the fact Miu held his knife blade-side up.

"(A.J. Martin) would've died without (the medical helicopter), surgery," Anderson said. "He's extremely lucky to be alive"

He said Tony Martin was stabbed just below the heart, and Ryhley Mattison also needed emergency surgery, with Miu just missing her vital organs.

"What is beyond clear, Nicolae knew, he knew this was not self-defense. All of his actions from the second the stabbing were done, he knew it," Anderson said. "It's obvious. His actions were horrific, they were senseless. He killed Isaac Schuman, stabbed him deep in the heart, disemboweled AJ, stabbed Tony who was trying to break up a fight, Ryhley when she was just standing there, and then walked up to Dante."

Anderson stated Miu had an unsuccessful three-point plan to evade capture and charges: slinking away from the crowd, playing dumb to investigators, and then lying to justify his use of force.

"Miu said he's glad there's a video. So are we," Anderson said. "Without the video, Miu would've slipped away."

Anderson said Miu walked away after stabbing five people, rinsed his knife in the river, threw it on a riverbank, told members of his group that the teens had taken his knife, and then put on his hat and shirt and got back on his tube.

He played a body cam video from Sheriff Scott Knudson taken shortly after Miu was detained near the river. Miu is seen in the footage saying "I heard somebody got stabbed and I fit the description." He then described the violent scene as "kids being kids." Anderson said this proves Miu wasn't in shock after the attack.

Anderson then went over the multiple lies Miu told to investigators, including his claim that two of the teens were armed with knives, and he turned one of their knives around and stabbed them in self-defense.

And Anderson said Miu later tried to blame his wife and friends for not helping him when he yelled out for them during the confrontation, which was never heard on the video.

Anderson attacked the defense's repeated claims that Miu was "feeble" and an "old man" despite only being 52 at the time of the incident.

While Miu had undergone quadruple bypass surgery two years earlier, his wife and friends testified that he wasn't a feeble, fragile man.

Joe Tamburino, a defense attorney not associated with the case, said Anderson had "stepped up his game" in his closing arguments, and took great advantage of the defense's claim that Miu was standing his ground, which is said was a "big mistake."

He said Anderson also deftly used the defense's "scale of fear" catchphrase against them, turning it into Miu's "levels of anger."

The defense's closing arguments

Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi began his closing arguments by laying out the events of the day of the stabbings, based on the video recorded by Jawahn Cockfield and shown repeatedly in court.

"What happened on July 30, 2022, is a group of drunk teenagers, led by the ringleader Jawahn Cockfield, saw an opportunity to torment a man who was by himself," Chirafisi said. "They taunted him, they called him names like 'raper' and 'pedophile' and 'predator.' They did this for no legitimate reason."

Chirafisi stressed that it was "13 against one" harassing Miu.

"They got in his face, they screamed at him, they called him names, they swore at him. They put their hands on him and the group of six, they became brave. The group of six became brave to the point that they circled him and start taunting him," Chirafisi said. "They do this to a man who has done nothing, absolutely nothing to them. Then, when that man, Mr. Miu, tries to create some space between him and Madison Coen, they pounce. They punch him. They push him. They slap him. They hit him again. They choke him. From, all directions. And Nic Miu acts in self-defense."

The defense told the jury they need to keep four things in mind: that Miu had no duty to retreat; that they need to consider "not the actions, but the beliefs" of Miu; the idea of "provocation"; and that Miu "doesn't have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn't act in self-defense. [The state has to] prove that his beliefs were unreasonable."

Chirafisi then shifted his focus to the video of the stabbings, including the leadup and aftermath. He asked the jury to consider whether the teenagers actually seemed scared, as they testified.

"They're not afraid, they want to see how this is going to play out," he said. "Jawahn Cockfield said it best. 'It's for the culture.' He wanted to put it on the internet so other people could see it."

Chirafisi also told the jury the boys "pretty much invented" their assertion Miu was looking for little girls.

"Every one of them who speaks to the police provides a statement about what happened: Zero. Zero mention to the police that he said he was looking for little girls," Chirafisi said.

The defense continued to recap the video, positing that the boys were the aggressors and Miu was "uncomfortable." He also highlighted, as heard in the video, that someone in the group told Miu, "You got 10 seconds."

"In your everyday experiences in life, when someone tells you that you have 10 seconds, what normally comes after that?" Chirafisi said. "Nothing good is coming after that. It's reasonable in our experiences as adults to take that as a threat."

Chirafisi said all of Schuman's friends denied saying this, leaving Schuman "holding the bag."

"They're saying it's the one person who isn't here," he said.

Chirafisi then attempted to poke holes in the narrative that Miu sparked the chaos by punching Coen, highlighting the lack of physical or photographic evidence of an injury to her face.

Then, Chirafisi moved to the part of the video when the actual stabbing occurred.   

Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi WCCO

"The first time I watched it, I didn't see what happened," he said. "I didn't see him pull a knife. I didn't see some of those people get injured.

"You have to look at those 14 seconds through Nic Miu's eyes as he was standing there in the river," he added. "He told you yesterday that he believed he was going to die, but he doesn't have to believe that. He just has to believe that he's going to suffer serious bodily injury."

Chirafisi urged the jury to draw their own conclusions from the video before moving toward his conclusion.

He told the jurors Miu is not guilty if they find the following: that "he believed there was an imminent unlawful interference with his person," "if he believed the amount of force he used was necessary to terminate that interference" and that "his beliefs were reasonable."

Chirafisi stressed that, to find Miu guilty on the homicide charge, the jury has to "watch that video and say that Miu's mental purpose is to kill Isaac Schuman."

The defense briefly addressed Miu's admitted lies about how he got the knife used in the stabbings, saying that, though he lied about details, he never wavered in his claim of self-defense.

Chirafisi said the jury should have sympathy for Schuman's family, "but you don't get to decide this case based on sympathy. The judge tells you that. You decide this case based on facts and evidence."

Finally, Chirafisi hammered that the state has to "prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt it's not self-defense."

"When you go back there and you have those verdict forms, if you believe it's self-defense, he's not guilty. If you believe it's probably self-defense, he's not guilty. If you believe it's possibly self-defense, he's not guilty," Chirafisi said. "If you believe it might not be, not guilty. If you believe it's probably not self-defense, not guilty. All of those considerations that you would have require a verdict of not guilty."

Prosecution gives rebuttal; case handed to jury

Assistant District Attorney Brian Smestad gave the rebuttal on Wednesday afternoon, calling Miu a "skilled and prolific liar."

He said that Miu lied to the police about "all kinds of crazy things. Bizarre things."

"Why would he say that these boys pulled his pants down? What a bizarre lie to make up," Smestad said. He said Miu crafted an elaborate story to his friends and police and then got up on the stand and said he did not remember anything.

Smestad added that the jury had never been given an explanation as to why Miu ran up to the boys in the first place. 

He urged the jury to disregard the "narrative" that Miu was 13-against-1 and instead was confronted by two girls while everyone else was in the background. After hitting Madison Coen, Miu was confronted by Dante Carlson and then A.J. Martin, making the fight 2-against-1. Tony Carlson then came to break up the fight, but Smestad said Miu "chose more violence after that part of the fight was done."

"He chose violence at every turn," Smestad said. He noted that Martin was not armed, and there was no explanation as to why he stabbed Ryhley Mattison. 

"He just walked over and stabbed her," Smestad said. Mattison was roughly 110 pounds at the time and Smestad argued that "he just was mad because she touched him."

Smestad said that Miu had roughly four hours to "concoct" a story to tell police. He repeated that Miu was smart — he worked as a mechanical engineer — but worked deliberately to come up with a story that would "convince" people he acted in self defense.

"We know he lied about all of it," Smestad said.

"You have my full confidence," Smestad told the jury "I know you're going to return a just verdict of guilty and deliver justice to Isaac Schuman and everyone else who got hurt by this man."

After Smestad left the stand, Judge Waterman issued instructions to the jury, handing the case over to them.

Jury asks to review video

After deliberating for some time, the jury asked to review Cockfield's videos, which were played during the trial. The nine-second video was played twice, then the longer video was played in full before a portion of it was replayed.

Day 7 recap

Miu took the stand on Tuesday and told the court he was afraid for his life before the deadly knife attack.

Video from that day shows an encounter between Miu, a group of teenagers and another group of men and women in their 20s escalating to violence.

Miu said the teens first harassed him before members of both groups attacked him.

RELATED: Body camera video of Nicolae Miu's arrest shown during day 4 of Apple River stabbing trial

Prosecutors said Miu had spooked the kids, then chose to stay and took things too far.

Miu confirmed Tuesday he took out his knife before he was ever punched.

"I was beginning to be afraid," Miu said.

"What was it about that moment where everybody is that made you so fearful that you took out your knife?" asked defense attorney Aaron Nelson.  


"I was surrounded, they were yelling, they had just pushed me," Miu said.

After being arrested, Miu was told by police that someone died. He then asked police if the fatal stabbing was between two of the teens.

Miu later told police two of the teens were armed with knives, and he grabbed one of the boy's arms and stabbed him with his knife.

"I lied," Miu said. "I totally lied about the knife."

RELATED: Video of Nicolae Miu's police interview shown during Apple River stabbing trial: "I feared for my life"

Tamburino said even though Miu effectively shared his fear with the jury, he ultimately didn't help himself.

"I think for the most part of this trial, the defense has had the upper hand, but that changed (on Tuesday)," Tamburino said. "What's going to be tough for him is all the lapse in memory as well as he admitted to lying to the police. I mean, his first story to the police is quite different than what he said on the stand, and he really didn't have a good explanation for that."

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