A jury Friday acquitted a Buffalo man of second-degree murder but convicted him of first-degree manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of a man last fall as they fought in a street. The fight followed an argument between the defendant and the defendant’s former girlfriend.
The State Supreme Court jury found Jamie R. Galarza, 26, of St. Stephens Place, guilty of the less-serious charge in the Oct. 12 slaying of Devonte Johnson, 21, of Bennett Village, in front of the former girlfriend’s home on Euclid Place.
Galarza faces a minimum prison term of five years and a maximum of 25 years when sentenced July 1 by Justice Russell P. Buscaglia. He is being held without bail.
During the weeklong trial, Nicole Marshall, 32, the ex-girlfriend, testified she was on the porch with her downstairs neighbor and others that evening when she saw Galarza and a woman walking up the street, about two weeks after Marshall’s breakup with Galarza.
Marshall said she argued with Galarza, accusing him of sleeping with the other woman while he was still in a relationship with her. She also exchanged words with the other woman.
The former girlfriend said Galarza pushed her and she pushed him back. At that point, she said Marie Christopher, her neighbor, and others on the porch went to the street. She said Galarza pushed Christopher.
Christopher testified that Johnson tried to get Galarza to leave.
The former girlfriend said she tried to swing at the other woman and Galarza stepped in front of her, then left with the woman.
Galarza returned alone a short time later, Marshall said. She said she asked him to stop, and he told her to get out of the way.
She said Galarza called Johnson into the street and then took a swing at him.
She said Johnson hit him back, and Galarza then pulled up his pants and made a jabbing motion at Johnson, who fell to the ground.
She said Johnson stumbled over to her, and she saw that he was bleeding. She called 911.
As Galarza walked way, she said, he was waving a knife in front of him, calling to others on the street that “they could have some of it, too.” She said Johnson did not have a weapon.
Galarza went to a friend’s home down the street. Marshall said she pointed him out to police, and he was arrested.
Homicide Detective Richard W. Wagstaff, who took a statement from Galarza later that night at Police Headquarters, read the statement to the jury.
Galarza told police that Johnson tried to get him to square off with him and that he backed off.
“Come on, put your hands up,” he said Johnson told him.
Galarza said Johnson hit him in the face twice.
When Johnson hit him a third time, Galarza said, he pulled out a knife and was hit in the back of the head and that Johnson then punched him again.
He said he stabbed Johnson three times as Johnson continued punching him.