Thomas J. Gant was convicted Monday of murdering Mikel Dickson of Leroy Avenue last January over a long-running family feud.
After more than two hours of deliberations following a week-long trial before State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti, a jury of six women and six men found Gant, 22, of Montclair Avenue, guilty on second-degree murder and weapons counts.
As the verdict was announced about 5:45 p.m., Gant put his head down on the defense table. Gant, also known as "J-Bird," has been jailed since early March when he was picked up by an Amherst traffic cop.
Rossetti remanded him to jail pending his Nov. 30 sentencing for killing Dickson, 21, of Halbert Street, in a hail of bullets about 2 p.m. last Jan. 5. Gant faces a mandatory life term and the judge must set his minimum sentence for parole consideration at between 15 and 25 years.
Gant, who recently was acquitted of drug-trafficking charges, didn't testify. But his attorney, Nelson S. Torre, last week subpoenaed an alleged female eyewitness to the murder who had mistakenly selected another man in a lineup last April.
Elizabeth Barnes, 45, admitted to the jury that even though two days after the fatal shooting she had picked out Gant's picture from police mug shots as that of the shooter, she had selected a different man in the lineup last spring.
That prompted Deputy District Attorney Lawrence M. Schwegler and prosecutor Lynn M. Wessel to call to the stand the 20-year-old man Ms. Barnes had picked at the lineup.
The man, a Walden Avenue resident whom court officials asked the news media not to identify, told the jury he has never held a gun in his life, never been in the Leroy Avenue area and was paid $20 by Buffalo police who picked him up downtown hours before the lineup and convinced him to be a lineup stand-in.
Last Wednesday, three male eyewitnesses, all in their early 20s, told the jury they saw Gant call out to Dickson near a Fillmore Avenue store. They said that as Dickson fled down Fillmore, Gant fired at least four shots at him with a handgun.
As Dickson ran west down Leroy off Fillmore, Gant fired four more shots, one of which hit him in the back and killed him, the three men testified. One of those men told the jury that several weeks after the fatal shooting, Gant stopped him on the street and apologized for killing Dickson.
Amherst Police Officer Mark Gray told the jury that when he stopped Gant for a routine traffic check in the 3600 block of Main Street about 1:30 a.m. last March 8, Gant falsely told him his name was Thomas J. Grant and actually spelled out the incorrect last name for him.
The prosecutors told the jury that Gant lied to the Amherst officer to avoid the Buffalo police arrest warrant in the Dickson shooting.
In closing arguments, Torres contended Gant was the victim of mistaken identify.