An appeals court has upheld the life sentence given to a Buffalo man for what a trial judge called a “brutal and senseless” killing in 2008.
Earl Howard, now 21 and an inmate at Southport Correctional Facility, was convicted of second-degree murder and weapons charges on Nov. 19, 2010 for the fatal shooting of Dayton Collins on Bailey Avenue near Collingwood Street two years earlier.
The five-judge Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester, which heard arguments in the case two months ago, agreed with appeals prosecutor David Panepinto and trial prosecutor James F. Barngesi that both the conviction and sentence handed down by Senior Erie County Judge Michael L. D’Amico were supported by the weight of the evidence in the case.
The appellate court stressed that during Howard’s nonjury trial, two men and a woman who had lived on the same street as Howard testified that they saw him shoot Collins during a street altercation on July 6, 2008.
The Rochester tribunal also cited trial testimony of Howard’s former drug-dealing associate, who testified that Howard “admitted to him that he shot the victim.”
The appellate court also accepted Panepinto’s contention that the fact that Howard moved to California several days after the incident was “uncontroverted evidence” of his “consciousness of guilt.”
“The fact that defendant returned to Buffalo after the police discovered his location in California” supported the prosecution theory that he “fled to California to avoid arrest” and did not go there simply because his mother, Rhonda Henderson, thought he needed a “different environment,” as she testified at her son’s trial.
At his Jan. 4, 2011 sentencing, Howard told D’Amico: “I’m not an angel, but I’m not a devil and I am not a killer.”
The judge ordered Howard to begin serving his life term after he completed the year he then owed on a Buffalo drug dealing conviction.
Howard was indicted for the Collins murder in March 2010, at a time when he was reportedly only months away from being released on parole for a Buffalo drug conviction.
In November 2009, Howard began serving a brief prison term in the state’s Cayuga Correctional Facility on his latest Buffalo drug conviction.
Because of the unanimous appellate court ruling, Howard has no chance of getting the state Court of Appeals to consider a further appeal. His next possible appeal would have to be to in federal court, officials said Monday.