Jury selection to begin Tuesday in case of fatal Hyannis stabbing.

BARNSTABLE — When testimony begins in Kelly Ridley Jr.'s murder trial, which will open Tuesday morning with jury selection, the judge will have to decide if the "vicious threats" Ridley sent to his uncle in text messages should be allowed as evidence.

During a final pretrial hearing Monday in Barnstable Superior Court, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Flanagan said the text messages, sent to the uncle an hour before Ridley fatally stabbed Thomas Russell Jr., would help jurors determine his frame of mind at the time.

Ridley, 20, of Hyannis, was 18 when he stabbed Russell, 26, also of Hyannis, at a party in October 2016. Flanagan is prosecuting the case because a relative of Russell’s works in the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office.

During Ridley’s arraignment in January 2017, prosecutors said he punched Russell at the party and later, when the two were outside, picked up a scooter and struck him with it before pulling out a knife and stabbing him four to five times.

Ridley's attorney, Christopher Belezos, has repeatedly said in pretrial hearings that he does not dispute that his client stabbed Russell. He plans to argue that it was in self-defense.

Belezos implored Judge Robert Rufo not to allow the three text messages because they would be difficult to authenticate, and it would be even harder to understand the context.

"I don't know if he's serious or if they're just running their mouths," he said.

Belezos cited the New England Patriots win on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

"If you pull up three text messages I sent to my nephew last night, there will be some foul language," he said. Those text messages do not mean he has any ill will toward his nephew, he said.

Belezos said Ridley ran to his uncle's house for help after he fatally stabbed Russell.

"There's no evidence of animus," he said.

Rufo said he was going to hold off issuing a judgment until the issue comes up during trial.

"It's a question of context, so I'm going to reserve on this," he said.

Rufo told prosecutors to refrain in their opening statements from mentioning the knives collected as evidence in the case.

The judge previously heard testimony that four knives were collected from the scene, but it is unclear which, if any, were used in the stabbing.

Rufo said he wanted to reserve judgment on a motion to limit the knife evidence and rule on it during the trial.

Text messages and knives were just a few of the pretrial issues Rufo tried to resolve.

Flanagan said many witnesses were intimidated after they testified before the grand jury and others recanted their prior statements, which means the court will have to question them outside the presence of the jury to determine if they are feigning memory loss before either side can introduce their previous testimony.

"We expect there will be an issue with prior inconsistent statements," Flanagan said.

One witness who testified to the grand jury about seeing the stabbing told prosecutors she did not want to "have anything to do with the case," he said.

Another witness, who previously said she witnessed the stabbing and described it in great detail, recanted her statement, Flanagan said.

Still other witnesses "expressed a fear of getting involved" beyond the grand jury proceedings because they had been approached or contacted in an alleged attempt to intimidate them.

Ridley also allegedly made calls from the jail to potential witnesses, including to a relative, Flanagan said.

Calls from the jail are monitored, and Flanagan said he was going to file a motion regarding those calls.

Although the trial will start with jury empanelment Tuesday, neither the judge not attorneys could say if opening statements and testimony would begin Wednesday or Thursday.

Flanagan said he expected to present five to six days of evidence.


— Follow Wheeler Cowperthwaite on Twitter: @WheelerReporter.