Emmanuel Nkurunziza appears in 8th District Court in Lewiston in May for a hearing to determine the status of his detention. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — A judge is expected to hear arguments next week on whether there is probable cause for a manslaughter charge to stand against a local teen and, if so, whether the teen should be tried as a juvenile or an adult.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, now 18, was charged last fall in the death of a local man following a brawl near Kennedy Park.

Prosecutors are seeking to have a judge bind over Nkurunziza as an adult in the June 2018 death of Donald Giusti, who died in a local hospital three days after a clash of white men and largely Somali youths on Knox Street.

Police said Nkurunziza, who is Congolese, admitted to throwing a rock during the melee that is believed to have struck Giusti in the head.

Nkurunziza reportedly told police he did not see where the rock landed, but a witness told police he saw Nkurunziza throw the rock and that it hit Giusti in the head.

Police said Giusti was assaulted by others after he was felled by the rock. A medical examiner determined the cause of Giusti’s death to be blunt-force trauma that included two “significant areas” of trauma to Giusti’s head and brain.

Juveniles charged with murder or Class A, B or C felonies could be tried on those charges as an adult if a judge determines the jurisdiction of the juvenile court should be waived, according to state law.

Prosecutors are expected to present evidence showing probable cause to support a charge of reckless or criminally negligent manslaughter.

In her motion, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea wrote the state also was seeking to have Nkurunziza evaluated by a forensic psychologist as part of the bind-over process. That evaluation was completed last week.

In his evaluation, psychologist Peter Donnelly wrote, “There’s little evidence that Emmanuel presents a danger to the public in general,” according to Nkurunziza’s lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, who read from the report during a detention hearing in 8th District Court last week. “He does not demonstrate criminal thinking tendencies. He’s not impulsive, nor does he use substances that could increase the possibility of aberrant behavior.”

Nkurunziza “functions as a rather pro-social, well-intentioned, shy and respectful youth who is future-oriented for pro-social goals,” Lobozzo continued in his preview of Donnelly’s evaluation.

In considering whether to bind over Nkurunziza as an adult, the judge must consider:

  • The seriousness of the crime and how it was committed.
  • The characteristics of the juvenile, including any criminal history and his emotional attitude.
  • The safety of the public.
  • And whether future criminal conduct by the juvenile will be deterred by the alternatives available under juvenile sentencing and whether those alternatives might diminish the gravity of the offense.

Next week’s hearing is expected to last up to three days.

Nkurunziza is being held at Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn after he was charged recently with assaulting a juvenile at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

A judge ruled last week Nkurunziza should remain at the jail in medium security and in protective custody until a less-restrictive alternative becomes available.

Nkurunziza’s lawyer filed a motion seeking to throw out statements that he reportedly made to police about the June 12, 2018, incident. Nkurunziza had turned 17 about a month earlier.

The judge is not expected to take up that motion until after deciding whether to bind over the case to adult court.

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