LOCKPORT - Today’s scheduled sentencing for Matthew A. Davis, convicted of felony murder in connection with the death of a Niagara Falls man, was postponed as defense attorney Michael S. Deal filed a motion to overturn the jury’s verdict.
Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III reserved decision on the motion, which was opposed by Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann. Murphy rescheduled sentencing for April 18 - unless he grants the motion for a new trial.
Davis, 37, never was charged with intentionally killing Antoine M. Bradberry, 41, in the latter’s apartment on Rainbow Boulevard in Niagara Falls.
Instead, Davis was charged with felony murder by causing Bradberry’s death in the course of committing another felony - in this case, robbery.
Davis allegedly used two women to scope out Bradberry’s apartment Aug. 22, 2011, before entering and trying to steal a cache of marijuana.
The jury deliberated less than two hours before convicting Davis on Dec. 7.
An autopsy ruled that Bradberry’s death was caused by “hypertensive cardiovascular disease,” but the manner of death was left undetermined. He also was found to have a broken nose and jaw.
Police officers who went to the scene after Bradberry’s father discovered the body said there was a large amount of blood spattered around the apartment.
Deal, who defended Davis along with Philip Dabney Jr., argued the evidence was insufficient to prove Bradberry’s death was caused by anything Davis might have done.
“There has to be a direct link between the defendant’s actions and the death,” Deal argued.
“There was no blunt force trauma that caused his death, that’s true,” Hoffmann replied. “It was the stress on his heart caused by this violent struggle that caused his death.”
Deal said the autopsy was done by Dr. Jonrika Malone, who was, as Deal put it, “excused” from the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office for failing a test.
Thus, Malone did not testify at the trial - Medical Examiner Dr. Diane Vertes did so - but Hoffmann said the defense passed up an opportunity Murphy offered to subpoena Malone.
“They want her conclusions, but they don’t want to bring her back [to testify],” Hoffmann said.
Prosecutors showed the jury video clips from the Jefferson Apartments’ surveillance cameras. They showed a man with a white T-shirt over his face heading toward Bradberry’s apartment.
One of the women involved in the case, Teara D. Fatico, testified that was Davis.
Deal said the man who operated the surveillance system said when the images were downloaded, “glitches” resulted that made people appear and disappear abruptly. Hoffmann said the defense didn’t object until the jury had seen the video, and then it was too late.
Murphy said Deal and Dabney “did a very excellent job of trying to exploit the glitches” at the trial.
Deal also said Davis told him that after Murphy dismissed the two alternate jurors at the start of deliberations, they were seen sitting on the Bradberry family’s side of the courtroom during the jury’s return to ask Murphy some questions.
Davis thought that choice of seating might have influenced the regular jurors, but Hoffmann said no one objected at the time.
“At that point, they’re basically free agents,” Murphy said of the alternates.
Fatico, 23, who pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree burglary and was sentenced to 13 years in prison, testified she had been having a sexual affair with the married Davis.
She testified that Davis was in her bedroom when she received a Facebook message on her smartphone from Bradberry, who asked her to visit him.
Fatico said Davis directed her to visit Bradberry and find out if he had anything to steal.
Fatico said she called a friend, Chastity L. Wilson to come along. Wilson, 23, refused to testify at Davis’ trial, even though she agreed to do so when she accepted the same plea deal as Fatico.