Mitrel Anderson’s trial begins in La Crosse

Anderson charged with first-degree intentional homicide

The first day of 27-year-old Mitrel Anderson’s trial ended Wednesday afternoon in La Crosse.

Anderson is charged with first-degree intentional homicide for the fatal stabbing Demario Lee during a fight inside the Kwik Trip bathroom on Cass Street last summer.

It was a pretty full courtroom Wednesday morning as day one of the trial started with the swearing in of the jury and opening statements. The prosecutor and defense both admit the stabbing happened, but painted very different pictures of why.

Within minutes of being sworn in, jury members heard opening statements.

“The purpose is to give lawyers an opportunity to tell you what they expect the evidence to show so you can better understand the evidence as it is introduced in the trial,” said La Crosse County Judge Elliott Levine.

Prosecuting attorney Michelle Keller presented her case first. She said Anderson stabbed Lee with the intent to kill him.

“After stabbing Demario Lee in the head, he chose to walk calmly past Demario. He chose to walk out of the Kwik Trip doors still possessing the knife he used to kill Demario Lee,” Keller said.

“He chose not to call police. He chose not to check on Demario Lee. He chose not to ask anyone to help his victim.”

Defense Attorney Christopher Zachar doesn’t deny Mitrel Anderson’s actions.

“Ms. Keller is correct. It is absolutely undisputed that Mitrel swung a knife and killed Demario Lee, but what you are going to hear is there is a tremendous difference legally between someone who swings in anger and somebody who is put into a position where he reasonably fears for his life,” Zachar said.

Zachar argues Lee’s death is in response to self-defense.

“When Mitrel was confronted by Demario, he instantly felt fear. Demario attacked Mitrel and forced him to into a position where he reacted to protect himself,” Zachar said.

After opening statements, the judge called several witnesses to the stand.

During witness testimony the jury heard from two of the Kwik Trip employees working third shift when the stabbing occurred around three in the morning.   

One employee described the scene as a typical busy shift because it was just after bar time and people usually stopped in to use the bathroom and get food.

He didn’t know anything had happened until he heard yelling from the back of the gas station.

“One or two females came forward from the back, screaming that they needed an ambulance to call 911,” said Nathan Diekmann, witness and Kwik Trip Employee. “Immediately in front of the office door is where we saw another black man in his 20s laying on the floor bleeding profusely.”

Diekman said he then went up to the front of the store to grab the phone while his co-worker took off her smock, kneeled down next to the injured man and wrapped her smock around his head.

“I went back to the front and told my co-worker to call 911 and then I went to the back of the store and applied pressure to the guy’s head to try and help stop the bleeding,” said Jualie Kirby, witness and Kwik Trip Employee.

Both witnesses made it clear on the stand they did not know what happened in the bathroom or words exchanged between the two guys. They mostly talked about what happened after the stabbing took place.

Jury members also spent about a half an hour Wednesday afternoon at the Kwik Trip touring the crime scene.