An NAACP spokesman said Monday the organization will work vigorously to help appeal the December Fulton County Court manslaughter and first-degree assault conviction of Edward D. Jones, a black man who could be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The case, said Fred Clark, vice president of the Schenectady Chapter of the NAACP, “stinks of prejudice.” He said the chapter has contacted the FBI and will contact the U.S. Justice Department about the treatment Jones received.
Jones, 39, of Burr Street, Gloversville, was convicted Dec. 10 in the stabbing of David T. Lamphear during a March 1 confrontation in which Lamphear beat Jones with a board, breaking Jones’ arm. Lamphear, also 39, died 15 days later from an infection. Jones was dating Lamphear’s ex-girlfriend at the time.
The all-white jury deliberated five hours before rejecting Jones’ claims of self-defense and accepting the argument of Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira that Jones had a duty to retreat during the confrontation with Lamphear.
Clark said he is particularly disturbed by information that among the more than 200 prospective jurors called in for jury selection there were two black men, and after one was excused Sira rejected the other.
When the standard for conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt, Clark said, he questions how the jury could have sorted out all the issues on all the charges in only five hours. He said he was told that some of the jurors appeared to be in a celebratory mood when they met briefly after the trial with court officials.
Sira said it would be inappropriate for her to discuss jury selection, but she rejected any contention that racism played a role in the verdict.
“The people who are criticizing the verdict are people who did not sit through the trial and who were not apprised of the evidence,” she said. “Criminal behavior cannot be excused or negated because of ethnicity. I’m confident in the job the jury did,” she said.
Clark was very critical of the possibility that Sira used her prosecutorial prerogatives in jury selection to reject the last black jury candidate. “We’re flabbergasted she had the gall to dismiss the only black juror … she must have been fearful of having a black on that jury because then she might not have gotten a conviction,” Clark said.
Clark said Jones’ self-defense claim seems supportable. “How could the DA possibly think that a man with a broken left arm could retreat … what was he supposed to do — leave a woman and children there with a drunken man?” There was testimony that Lamphear was intoxicated when Jones and Holly Walker dropped off children for a visitation.
There is no sentencing date for Jones, and defense attorney Roger Paul said he is preparing a motion seeking dismissal of at least one count. While the jury acquitted Jones on a count of first-degree manslaughter, which alleges intent to harm, it found him guilty of the most serious charge in the indictment, first-degree assault, which also relies on intent. Paul has said the verdict — also guilty on second-degee manslaughter and possession of a weapon — is inconsistent.
First-degree assault allows for a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
“We’re working feverishly for Mr. Jones … hopefully we can get this injustice corrected,” Clark said.
Paul said he has discussed the case with Clark, but said the NAACP is entering the case a little too late for Jones. Paul said NAACP representatives would have been more effective had they attended the trial.
Paul said he believes prejudice was a factor in the verdict. He said three or four of the jurors interviewed after the verdict seemed very pleased with their decision and they became “exuberant” when Sira entered the room to talk to them.
Paul said he will file his motion and the notice of appeal, but the courts will assign a lawyer to file Jones’ appeal.
“Mr. Jones was clearly not guilty because of self-defense,” Paul said. Issues for appeal, he said, could include judicial error in allowing the prosecution to present testimony that Jones’ brother is a murder suspect from South Carolina who was visiting him when he was arrested in Gloversville and that Sira was allowed to state in her summation that Jones had not only a legal duty to retreat but a legal duty to run away. Paul said that there is no obligation to run away.
“Maybe there’s enough for another trial,” Paul said of the planned appeal.
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Categories: Schenectady County