LOCKPORT – A Buffalo man, tied to a Niagara Falls home invasion by DNA and seemingly little else, went on trial Tuesday in Niagara County Court.
Brandon D. Green, 31, of Davison Avenue, could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree kidnapping.
Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Caldwell told the jury in her opening statement that the case hinges on a DNA sample taken from a pair of handcuffs.
“Those handcuffs will be the central piece of evidence in this case,” Caldwell said.
Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou agreed, laying out his plans to try to shake the jury’s confidence in the DNA evidence.
“The DNA doesn’t mean for a second that Brandon Green was in that house,” Eoannou shouted at the jury.
The victim, a 60-year-old Parkview Avenue man, told police he was awakened in the early hours of May 16, 2011, by three men who had entered his dark bedroom. They apparently wore masks and gloves. One put a gun to his forehead, but all three seemed to have handguns, Caldwell told the jury.
One of the intruders snapped a pair of handcuffs around the victim’s wrists. It was on those handcuffs that police later found the DNA of three people, Caldwell said. One was Green, whose DNA was in the state database because of a previous robbery conviction.
Caldwell said Keith P. Meyers of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office forensic lab, who worked up the DNA profile, found that the odds of the DNA coming from someone other than Green were “1 in 319.5 trillion.”
Eoannou said Green was arrested in Buffalo in February for “a crime he did not commit and had nothing to do with.” He told the jury that DNA can be transmitted through touching and can stay on a surface for years. There will be no evidence placing Green at the crime scene other than “uncorroborated DNA,” he said.
Caldwell said that one of the robbers placed a pillow over the victim’s face and that he could hear them rummaging through drawers and closets. He said they kept asking him, “Where’s the safe?”
The victim at first denied he had one. He was flipped off the bed onto the floor after about 10 minutes, forced into a closet with a shirt over his head and hit in the face, Caldwell said.
She said the man then heard his gas-burning fireplace being removed and knew that the robbers had found the safe. One demanded the combination, and the victim gave it up.
After the safe was emptied, he was sprayed with Mace and left in the closet. He managed to get out a few minutes after hearing a car drive off and called 911.
Green, who was apprehended Feb. 1, is the only person arrested in the case. Eoannou said the victim provided no identification “other than the generic ‘three black males.’ ”
Police reported at the time of Green’s arrest that the items stolen included a wallet, several rings, $80 in cash, and credit cards. Eoannou said the estimates the victim gave started at $50,000 and later grew to $500,000. Caldwell did not mention a figure in her opening statement.