NEW YORK, OCT. 8 -- A prosecution witness in the Howard Beach racial assault trial said today she saw a dozen white youths surround a black man and beat him with a crowbar, a tree limb and a baseball bat.

The victim "looked straight at me," Theresa Fisher testified. "He said, 'Please help me. They're going to kill me.' "

Fisher, who said she was visiting her sister in the Howard Beach section of Queens last Dec. 20, did not identify the victim, one of three who were attacked by a gang of whites in the predominantly white neighborhood after their car broke down.

One of the black men, Michael Griffith, fled onto a highway and was struck by a car and killed.

Fisher's testimony came in an acrimonious session in which the judge rebuked the defense lawyers for their questions, the defense demanded a mistrial, and the jury heard from Griffith's brother and mother.

Jon Lester, 18, Scott Kern, 18, are charged with murder, assault, riot and conspiracy, while Jason Ladone, 16, and Michael Perone, 17, are charged with manslaughter, assault and riot.

Prosecutors say about a dozen white youths confronted Griffith, 23, and his companions, Timothy Grimes, 19, and Cedric Sandiford, 36, outside a pizza parlor.