As the first phase of Darrick Anderson’s murder trial neared an end, his defense began laying groundwork Thursday to assert that he stabbed a man to death in a Downtown apartment in self-defense, after the victim had attacked him first.

On cross-examination of Dr. Vincent Tranchida, Dane County chief medical examiner, Anderson’s lawyer, Tim Kiefer, asked whether slice wounds on Anderson’s hands could have been defensive wounds, caused as Anderson warded off an attack by Andrew Nesbitt, 46, who died in his North Butler Street apartment on March 27. Anderson, 24, of Columbus, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

“It could be,” Tranchida responded to questions Kiefer posed about cuts on each of Anderson’s hands.

But questioned further by Deputy District Attorney Matthew Moeser, Tranchida said the slice wounds on Anderson’s fingers also could have been caused by his hand sliding from the knife handle to the knife blade as the knife struck something solid, such as bone. Tranchida had also testified that of the 41 stab wounds and 35 cut wounds that Nesbitt sustained, some struck his skull hard enough to damage the bone.

Tranchida also said that some cuts on Nesbitt’s hands and arms could have been defensive wounds.

Earlier, Madison police Investigator Dan Roman testified that based on his analysis of blood spatter, Nesbitt’s assailant wielded a knife in his right hand. The worst of Anderson’s injuries were to his right hand.

Kiefer has said that he wants the jury to be allowed to consider self-defense during the first phase of the trial, when the jury would decide whether Anderson is guilty of killing Nesbitt. The defense case, which will begin Friday, could include testimony from Anderson, who did not appear in court by his own choice Thursday morning, but returned for the afternoon session.

Jurors were instructed by Circuit Judge John Hyland not to read anything into Anderson’s absence during the morning session.

The second phase of the trial, if Anderson is found guilty, will determine whether Anderson was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time of the killing.

Tranchida, as he ran jurors through the most lethal of the knife wounds on Nesbitt’s body, testified that the weapon that was used was a single-edge knife, like most kitchen knives. The knife used to kill Nesbitt has not been found.

Outside of the jury’s presence, Hyland drew the line at allowing Kiefer to ask Tranchida whether there was a way to tell who started the incident that led to Nesbitt’s death, and whether the pattern of injuries could be consistent with Nesbitt starting a fight and brandishing a knife, and Anderson grabbing the knife and launching a counterattack.

Moeser said that at this point there’s been “zero evidence” during the trial to suggest that scenario, at least until Anderson testifies.