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Appeals court grants new trial in murder case

An appeals court that had upheld Leon H. Martin III's murder conviction a decade ago for the 1991 killing of a Porter Avenue woman granted Martin a new trial Friday.

In a 3-2 vote, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester granted Martin's request for a new trial in the killing of Yolanda C. Kelly. Martin is serving a life term for the murder.

Martin, 50, was convicted by a Buffalo jury on Nov. 12, 1992, and the appellate court upheld the verdict in 1996.

Martin's attorney, Thomas P. Theophilos of Buffalo, said he may seek Martin's release on bail pending a new trial.

Martin, a former Vermont Street resident who is incarcerated in Groveland Correctional Facility, testified during the jury trial before State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang that he stabbed Kelly, the mother of two young children, 53 times in self-defense after she attacked him for unknown reasons.

The appellate court majority of Senior Associate Justice Samuel L. Green, Salvatore R. Martoche of Buffalo and Elizabeth W. Pine of Rochester held that Martin "was denied his right to effective assistance of appellate counsel," regarding questions about jury notes sent to the trial judge.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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