Quincy Atwell’s long, dark dreadlocks couldn’t obscure the white of his broad smile as he embraced defense attorney Frederick Rench in the courtroom.
Moments earlier, the 31-year-old city man was facing up to 25 years in prison on the charge of attempted second-degree murder, a crime that had kept him held without bail in the Schenectady County jail for more than nine months. But when the verdict came after a roughly two-week trial, Atwell found himself a free man late Tuesday afternoon, able to walk out of the courthouse unfettered by the shackles he wore on the way in.
Jurors exonerated Atwell on all six charges he faced in connection with a slashing that occurred in an alley on Spring Street in late October. Rench, a contracted public defender who received the case about a month before the trial, said the verdict shows the jury accepted Atwell’s account of a fracas that broke out between him and another man, after a mother accused him of menacing her child.
“This is an innocent man,” he said after the court proceedings ended. “That was a sweep right there.”
Atwell was initially arrested on a first-degree assault charge following a stabbing that left another man with gaping wounds to his face and hand. About a month after the attack, a grand jury indicted him on one count of second-degree attempted murder and two counts of first-degree assault, as well as menacing and endangering the welfare of a child.
The incident unfolded after a woman living near Atwell accused him of pulling a knife on her child. Rench said another man then used a 31-inch-long metal pipe to chase Atwell before cornering him in the alley off Spring Street.
Rench said Atwell pulled his pocket knife to protect himself. In the process, he opened up two wounds on the man that required staples to close.
“Quincy tried to walk away from this,” he said. “It was only after he was overtaken that he had to defend himself.”
The duration of the chase and Atwell’s interaction with the child were both disputed at trial. The man who was stabbed later said he followed Atwell about 135 feet before he was injured, while Atwell testified that the man chased him a greater distance, down both Second Avenue and Spring Street, before catching up with him in the alley.
Rench said 911 recordings also dispute the mother’s claim that Atwell pulled a knife on her child. He said the woman indicated to dispatchers that Atwell merely pushed his hand up against the child’s face.
Jurors deliberated throughout the day Tuesday before reaching their verdict around 3 p.m. The trial was originally expected to take about a week, but extended for roughly two weeks.
After the verdict was returned, Judge Michael Coccoma asked whether Atwell had any pending warrants. With none on record, he advised the now-free man he could leave.
“You are free to walk out of this courthouse,” he said.
Rench called the verdict “a terrific victory” for his client. And after Atwell collected his belongings from the jail, he offered him a ride home.
“I’m going to put him in my car and bring him back to his mother,” he said.