LOCKPORT – Cordarise M. Houston, of Niagara Falls, was convicted Wednesday of shooting an old friend seven times, despite the victim’s inability to remember the attack that left him a paraplegic.
A Niagara County Court jury of nine men and three women deliberated two hours and 50 minutes before finding Houston guilty of attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Judge Matthew J. Murphy III ordered Houston held without bail pending sentencing July 10. Houston, who last month rejected a plea offer that would have limited his prison time to 10 years, now could go to prison for as long as 30 years.
Houston, 24, of 70th Street, was charged with shooting John Petty, now 25, in the latter’s apartment on Cudaback Avenue in the Falls shortly before 1 a.m. May 26.
Petty, testifying in a wheelchair because he lost the use of his legs to a bullet that passed through his spinal column, said he couldn’t remember the incident.
However, he did call 911 right after the shooting and told the operator that Houston shot him. Petty said he’d heard the tape and recognized his own voice.
An emergency room doctor testified that Petty’s amnesia could have been a side-effect from severe loss of blood.
The jury asked for part of the 911 tape to be replayed three times before reaching its verdict.
That was the crucial evidence, defense attorney Angelo Musitano said.
“Take that piece of evidence out, I think it would have been a difficult case to prove,” he said.
Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said, “I think the jury evaluated the evidence and got everything right.”
She never offered any evidence in regard to a motive for the shooting. She speculated after court that it pertained to an uncharged crime committed by Houston.
“I believe John Petty had some knowledge that Mr. Cordarise Houston didn’t want out,” Hoffmann said.
Petty said his last memory from before the shooting was of selling marijuana on 19th Street in the Falls, and after that his next memory is of waking up in the hospital.
He spent three months in Erie County Medical Center and underwent several surgeries.
Musitano argued that police wrote down a first name different than Cordarise, based on Petty’s words.
Retired Falls detective Patrick Stack testified that police had no record of anyone named Cornelius or Cordelius Houston.
Hoffmann argued that Petty thought he was dying and had no reason to fabricate a story implicating a man he’d known since sixth grade.
Musitano calculated from cellphone records that the two talked on the phone together for more than 17 hours in the eight days before the shooting.
Petty had a loaded handgun in his pocket – he said he bought it for protection in the marijuana business – but he never drew it during the incident. Police also said there was no sign of forced entry.