LOCKPORT – A Niagara County Court jury will decide today whether Cordarise M. Houston is the man who shot John Petty last May 26, leaving the victim a paraplegic.
There’s no doubt about it, Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said in her closing argument to the jury on Tuesday.
“He shot him once, knocking him to the floor, and then fired six more rounds into him,” Hoffmann told the jury. “He left John Petty to die in a pool of his own blood.”
But Petty was able to get a cellphone to his ear and call 911. He told an operator who asked who shot him, “Cord, Cordarise Houston.”
“It’s not just John Petty saying a name. He’s answering a question,” Hoffmann said. “When the 911 operator gets the name wrong, he fixes it. … It was his last chance to say what happened.”
Houston, 24, of 70th Street, Niagara Falls, is charged with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Police found a handgun in the pocket of Petty, an admitted marijuana dealer, but he never pulled it. Hoffmann said that, and the lack of any sign of forced entry, are evidence that the shooter was someone Petty would have willingly let into his Cudaback Avenue apartment – someone like Houston, whom Petty, 25, testified had been a friend of his since sixth grade.
Defense attorney Angelo Musitano told the jury that cellphone records showed Petty and Houston talked to each other on the phone for more than 17 hours between May 18 and 25.
“Does that sound like someone who’s going to go into 1957 [Cudaback] and do what happened there?” Musitano asked. “We’re talking about friends with no beefs, no fights.”
“Six bullets went through John and one grazed the side of his head,” Hoffmann said, citing evidence found at the scene.
The prosecutor said that Robert L. Hilson, Petty’s half-brother, who rented another apartment in the Cudaback Avenue building, found Houston in a car outside Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center after the shooting.
“We do know he shows up at the hospital before the ambulance,” Hoffmann said of Houston. “How did he know John Petty was shot?”
Hilson, who is under indictment on a drug charge, testified that Houston wanted to know if Petty was talking.
“He wants to know if he got his job done. He wants to know if there’s anyone who can get him in trouble,” Hoffmann charged.
Petty testified that he didn’t remember the shooting, although he confirmed it was his voice on the 911 tape and identified Houston as the man sitting at the defense table.
Musitano said no one is treating Petty for memory loss. He told the jury if they’re looking for proof of Petty’s amnesia, “It’s not here.”
Hoffmann said the medical center’s emergency room doctor testified that severe blood loss could lead to memory loss.
Hoffmann also said that the arresting officer who caught Houston May 28 in a Motel 6 in the Falls heard him say through the door, “I’m on my knees with my hands behind my back.”
“Are those the words of a concerned friend, or are those the words of a guilty man?” Hoffmann asked the jury.
Musitano said that quotation isn’t in the officer’s written report and seems to have cropped up later.