Niagara Gazette

March 25, 2013

New trial sought

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT -- Janice Bradberry shook her head in resignation as she left Niagara County Court Monday morning.

She had expected to see the man convicted of the murder of her son sentenced and sent to prison. Instead, lawyers for Matthew "Bones" Davis  filed an eleventh hour motion seeking to have the jury verdict that convicted him overturned.

"It is what it is. I expected this," she said with a sigh. "It's just another ploy for him to stay at the country club (Niagara County jail). He will do time. He will pay for what he did."

But Davis' defense team launched one last ditch attempt to win him a new trial and a chance at freedom.

"We want to re-raise some issues that were brought up at trial and preserve them (if there's an appeal) for Mr. Davis," defense attorney Michael Deal said. 

It took a Niagara County Court jury just two hours to reach a verdict that found Davis guilty of two counts of second-degree murder and single counts of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary in the slaying of Antoine Bradberry in the victim's Rainbow Boulevard apartment.

Davis had been accused of killing Bradberry in a botched robbery in August 2011. 

Police also arrested and charged Davis' girlfriend, Teara Fatico, and another woman, Chasity Wilson, in the weeks after the slaying. The pair both pleaded guilty, in a deal with prosecutors, to a charge of attempted first-degree burglary.

Fatico testified against Davis at his trial and she and Wilson are each currently serving 13-year state prison terms for their convictions.

Investigators said Bradberry died after a violent struggle with Davis. An autopsy determined that Bradberry had suffered from hypertensive disorder and probably suffered a fatal heart attack as a result of the stress of the struggle.

His defense claimed that wasn't murder and raised the issue again in front on Murphy on Monday.

"I think we argued quite a bit on the causation issue," Deal said. 

The lawyer argued that because a prosecution medical expert did not testify "beyond a reasonable doubt" that stress from a fight with Davis caused Bradberry's fatal heart attack that the jury should not have concluded that was the cause of death. Deal also suggested the evidence of a fight between Bradberry and Davis was "tenuous."

First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann told Murphy that Deal's position was "an unreasonable burden for the people."

"The test (for medical evidence) is to a medical certainty," she said. "Not beyond a reasonable doubt."

Hoffmann also argued that a jury verdict can only be set aside if they failed to follow the law in the case.

"(The cause of death) is a question of fact," she said. "And that is for a jury to decide."

Deal also argued that Murphy should not have allowed the jury to view security camera video from the Rainbow Apartments. The video showed Davis, Fatico and Wilson going in and out of the building the night of the murder.

In storing the digital video, it was compressed and Deal said that created distortion in the images. Murphy indicated he would re-affirm an earlier ruling in the trial that the video was admissible to the jury.

"Everyone who sees those videos can see they have evidentiary value," the judge said.

The defense also argued that prosecutors waited too long to tell them the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Bradberry would not testify at the trial because she had been terminated from her job.

Hoffmann said if the defense had wanted to bring the former medical examiner in as a witness they could have, but decided not to do that. She also said prosecutors did not need to disclose that the medical examiner had been fired until the start of the trial.

Murphy told the lawyers he expected to have a decision on the defense motion in about three and a half weeks. Davis is now scheduled to be sentenced on April 18. 

He faces a potential prison term of 25 years to life.