A jury that hears the first murder trial linked to a 2010 stabbing spree in Michigan will be allowed to consider evidence of the other attacks, a judge said Friday.
The decision by the judge was a blow to defense lawyers who believe Elias Abuelazam won't get a fair trial if the jury hears he's accused of other violent acts that shocked the Flint area last year.
After making the key ruling in court, Genesee County Judge Judith Fullerton met privately with lawyers and settled on Feb. 7 as the trial date in the death of Arnold Minor, whose DNA was detected in blood found in Abuelazam's car and luggage.
Abuelazam was captured in August 2010 while trying to flee the country and subsequently was charged with three murders and six attempted murders in and around Flint, 60 miles north of Detroit. The victims who survived say they were viciously stabbed after he stopped them late at night and asked for directions or help with his car.
Under Michigan law, prosecutors in certain cases can present evidence of similar acts. Assistant prosecutor Tamara Phillips said there was a pattern of "short, quick, swift" attacks linked to Abuelazam.
Offering evidence of the other stabbings would be crucial, she said, especially if Abuelazam chooses an insanity defense.
Victims would say "he was lucid" during the attacks, Phillips said. "He wasn't talking about demons or voices."
The judge said the circumstances were "amazingly similar."
Defense attorney Ed Zeineh unsuccessfully argued that the evidence would be extremely prejudicial against Abuelazam. Outside court, he said Fullerton's ruling will have a role in whether an insanity defense will be pursued.
A psychiatrist, Dr. Norman Stanley Miller, has been lined up to testify in support at trial, while prosecutors have three experts to rebut him, according to court filings reviewed by The Associated Press.
"It's seriously being considered," Zeineh told the AP.
Abuelazam did not speak in court but often conferred with his two attorneys. He was heavily shackled at the wrists and ankles and closely watched by four sheriff's officers.
In addition to facing charges in nine Michigan stabbings, Abuelazam is charged with one stabbing in Toledo, Ohio. He is also suspected in five more in Flint and one in Leesburg, Va.