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High School Civics Lesson in Criminal Court Includes Seeing Lawyer Slashed with Razor Blade

Posted Dec 13, 2012 6:12 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A group of about 20 San Diego high school students getting a civics lesson by watching testimony in a California criminal trial on Thursday morning experienced more than anyone expected.

As the prosecution was presenting a final rebuttal witness to the jury in an attempted murder and conspiracy case against three defendants who are claimed to be members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, one of the defendants, Eduardo Macias, 32, slashed his lawyer, William Burgener, in the face with a razor blade, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Burgener was taken from the courtroom on a stretcher, with a bandage wrapped around his face, and another lawyer stood in for him at the trial afterward. However, he was able to speak on the phone later in the morning with another lawyer in the courtroom.

Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh has not yet decided whether to declare a mistrial. One defense lawyer asked for a mistrial, another wanted to go forward with the trial and the prosecutor asked for more time to research and consider the issue. Deddeh said he'd never seen another such courtroom incident in 30 years as a lawyer and judge, the Union-Tribune reports.

The newspaper says Macias is believed to have smuggled the blade into the courtroom in his mouth. After the slashing, students from Grossmont High School who were in the courtroom were taken to another area and questioned by deputies, presumably as potential witnesses in a possible new criminal case against Macias.

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