The attacked happened shortly before 10:30 a.m., as a prosecution rebuttal witness was testifying in the trial of three men accused in a prison assault.
As the witness testified in front of a jury, one of the defendants, 32-year-old Eduardo Macias, allegedly slashed defense lawyer William Burgener across the lower cheek.
Medics took Burgener out of the courthouse on a gurney, his face wrapped in a bandage.
Burgener needed stitches to close the wound, Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh said.
The Court Services Investigation Unit was working to determine how Macias could have gotten the makeshift weapon into the courthouse.
All inmates are searched prior to leaving jail for court appearances, according to sheriff’s officials. Unless they require additional metal restraints due to heightened security concerns, all inmates pass through a metal detector as they are being escorted to judicial proceedings.
Additionally, personnel with the sheriff’s Courts Services Bureau conduct additional searches, such as full pat-downs.
Generally, deputies bring five to 10 inmates to court at a time via a transfer corridor. High-security inmates are escorted individually by at least two deputies.
At the time of the attack, a group of about15 students from Grossmont High School in El Cajon were in the courtroom as part of a class assignment, according to Superior Court spokeswoman Karen Dalton.
“Fortunately, none of our students were affected, injured or in any way a direct part of the situation,” said Superintendent of Grossmont Union High School District Ralf Swenson. “They were taken into another room and police dealt with the situation.”
School officials reached out to parents and would make arrangements Friday morning for any student needing attention.
Burgener, who was grateful that the incident would only leave a scar, said he will return to court Friday morning to represent Macias.
Deddeh told the jurors who witnessed the alleged attack to return Friday morning, saying he needed to meet with attorneys in the case and decide whether to declare a mistrial or proceed with closing arguments.