Fulton County Judge Richard C. Giardino threw out the top count against Edward D. Jones before sentencing him Monday to a prison term of 71⁄2 to 15 years for second-degree manslaughter.
Jones, a black man convicted at trial in December of the stabbing death of Northville resident David T. Lamphear, who was white, would have faced up to 25 years in prison if Giardino let stand a charge of first-degree assault.
Lamphear, 39, was stabbed once in the side during a March 1, 2007, fight in which Lamphear beat Jones with a board, breaking Jones’ arm. Jones, also 39, was living on Burr Street in Gloversville with Lamphear’s ex-girlfriend.
Jones apologized to the Lamphear family Monday, “even though I don’t feel it was my fault.”
Giardino, in a ruling issued Monday before sentencing, said the Dec. 10 verdict was inconsistent because when the jury acquitted Jones of first-degree manslaughter it found he had no intent to cause serious physical injury. But, the jury then found Jones guilty of first-degree assault, which also alleges intent to cause serious injury.
Giardino, ruling on a motion by defense attorney Roger Paul, said case law does not support such an inconsistent finding.
He cited a Court of Appeals decision, which said “the critical concern is that an individual not be convicted for a crime on which the jury has actually found that the defendant did not commit an essential element, whether it be one element or all … allowing such a verdict to stand is not merely inconsistent with justice, it is repugnant to it.”
Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira reserved her right to appeal Giardino’s decision to modify the jury verdict.
Sira, who read a statement Monday critical of those who have questioned the verdict and suggested it was tainted by racism, said she was not surprised by Giardino’s decision given his comments during an early March hearing on the defense motion.
Fred Clark, vice president of the Schenectady Chapter of the NAACP, said the organization will obtain a lawyer to file Jones’ appeal. Clark said he was disappointed Giardino did not order a new trial.
At a prior court appearance, Paul compared himself to Atticus Finch, the defense attorney in the 1960 Harper Lee novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In the fictional case, an innocent black man is convicted by an all-white jury.
After sentencing, Paul said, “We’re disappointed … we had hoped the court would overturn the verdict and order a new trial.”
But, Paul said, he was planning to file a notice of appeal Monday.
In his decision, Giardino noted, “the proof at trial established that [Lamphear] had made prior threats against [Jones] over the fact that [Jones] was seeing [Lamphear’s] ex-girlfriend, who is also the mother of [Lamphear’s] children. According to testimony, some of the threats were racially derogatory toward [Jones], who is African-American.”
In her statement, Sira said she was amazed that critics of the verdict “render opinions and label people” on the basis of newspaper accounts of the trial.
Lamphear’s sister, Connie Johnson, read a statement Monday portraying her brother as a loving brother, son and father “with a heart as big as the world.”
She said family members stood by Lamphear’s bed as he suffered for two weeks, “suffering no human being should have had to endure.” Lamphear died of an infection on March 15.
Johnson spoke directly to Jones: ”You knew David did not like you … why did you go to my brother’s house that evening?” She asked Giardino to impose the maximum sentence, which under the remaining counts, he did.
There were a number of observers at the sentencing, including retired county mental health official Michael Tibbetts. Despite Sira’s remarks about people making judgments about the verdict without having attended the trial, Tibbetts said he still believes the case raises questions about “whether a black man can get a fair trial in Fulton County.”
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Categories: Schenectady County