Trial set for woman accused in 2009 SF pizzeria killing

An East Bay woman accused of fatally stabbing a San Francisco pizza shop worker in 2009, an act her attorney claims was self-defense, will go to trial for murder in March after a date was set in court Wednesday.

Maryam Achekzai, 26, of Hercules, was arrested early in the morning of Nov. 24, 2009, after allegedly stabbing 38-year-old Lassaad Youssef Bokri outside Bellissimo Pizza at 920 Sutter St. in The City’s Nob Hill neighborhood.

The case will rely on several witness accounts, and possibly the testimony of Achekzai herself, according to her attorney Mark Iverson of the Public Defender’s Office.

It’s unclear what prompted an argument between the two outside the pizzeria, but workers at the shop and other witnesses on the street reported hearing Achekzai screaming and seeing her lunging at Bokri with the knife, according to testimony at a preliminary court hearing that concluded earlier this month.

“She was clearly defending herself in this case, and I believe the evidence is going to show that,” Iverson said outside a court hearing in the case Wednesday.

A judge on Dec. 8 ruled there was sufficient evidence to hold Achekzai for trial on murder, with allegations of the use of a deadly weapon.

Also alleged is Achekzai’s prior conviction for felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury in Alameda County for a 2006 robbery in Fremont in which she held a knife to a woman’s throat.

Achekzai re-entered a plea of not guilty to the charges Wednesday morning in San Francisco Superior Court. A trial date was set for March 25.

Witnesses at the preliminary hearing said Achekzai came into the restaurant at about 1:30 a.m., shortly before closing, asking for a cup of water. She was given the water and left.

Workers at the pizzeria said Bokri then went out for a smoke break, and a short time later, they saw the fracas outside. One of the workers broke up the two and saw Bokri had been stabbed.

One worker reported hearing Achekzai yelling, “Get him off me, I’m going to kill him.”

A customer said he saw Achekzai holding a knife, screaming and crying.

Bokri died of several stab wounds to the torso, including punctures to the lung and kidney, a medical examiner testified.

Iverson noted that the accounts of the various witnesses to the stabbing varied and at times, conflicted.

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