By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT -- Opening arguments are set for this morning in the murder trial of Matthew "Bones" Davis.
But Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III will first have to rule on whether prosecutors will be able substitute the testimony of a former Erie County medical examiner for that of her boss and whether conclusions on if what an autopsy on the body of Antione Bradberry showed can be presented to the nine men and three women on the jury hearing the case.
Davis faces two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary in the slaying of Bradberry. Investigators have described Davis as the mastermind in the Bradberry murder.
At a hearing Wednesday, Davis' defense team objected to a request by prosecutors to call Erie County Medical Examiner Dr. Diane Vertes as a witness to testify on an autopsy performed on Bradberry. Vertes did not conduct the autopsy.
The examination was done by Dr. Jonrika Malone, who no longer works for the Erie County Medical Examiner. Prosecutors said Malone had "failed to pass an (Erie County) employment exam" that was required for her to keep her job in the medical examiner's office.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Seaman said Vertes had supervised the autopsy on Bradberry and asked the judge to allow him to introduce as evidence the "factual observations" that Malone hade made in her report. Seaman said Vertes could then offer a conclusion on the cause of Bradberry's death death based on the "facts" in the autopsy report.
Defense attorney Michael Deal objected, saying Malone, in her conclusions on the autopsy had not ruled Bradberry's death a homicide. Deal said the cause of death listed on the autopsy was "undetermined."
"I can't imagine, if the prosecution wants to bring in Dr. Vertes, that she will testify to the same conclusion," Deal said.
The defense lawyer said Malone blamed Bradberry's death on "hypertensive disorder and his obesity."
"The original conclusion of Malone is why were are here (at trial)," Deal said.
Attorney Philip Dabney said the defense may try to put Malone on the witness stand.
"It is our intention, at this point, to call (Malone as a witness)," Dabney said. "We are independently looking for her."
Prosecutors claim Bradberry was killed in his Rainbow Boulevard apartment on Aug. 23, 2011 after being held down on his sofa and asphyxiated with a shirt. Investigators said the slaying was the result of a botched robbery attempt by Davis and two women accomplices, Teara Dominique Fatico and Chasity Lee Wilson.
Fatico, 22, and Wilson, 21, were each charged with second-degree murder and first-degree robbery. In November, they both pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree burglary and agreed to testify against Davis.
Both admitted that they played a role in the murder, but each fingered Davis as the killer.
Fatico and Wilson are now each serving 13-year prison terms.