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Videos show Carter at homicide site

Darnell D. Carter's taste in clothing might hurt him in his murder trial in Niagara County Court.

The jury was shown a series of surveillance videos Wednesday from the Hometown Market on Pierce Avenue in Niagara Falls, all showing a man Falls Detective John Conti identified as Carter.

In each, Carter, 23, of 12th Street, was wearing what Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann described as "a very distinctive purple hoodie."

That made Carter easy to spot in the videos, taken by the market's sophisticated 16-camera color surveillance system.

Carter, who was wearing a purple suit with a grid pattern in the courtroom Wednesday, paid no attention to the videos. While they played, he seemed to be absorbed in reading some documents at the defense table.

The videos showed him entering and exiting the store on the night of March 20, 2009, moments before Robert R. Biggs, 39, suffered a fatal gunshot wound in a parking lot next to the store.

Conti said that in one video taken near the beer cooler, Carter talked to another man and raised his right hand with his index and middle fingers together, as if to simulate a gun.

Another camera showed Carter raising his hands over his face -- it was a distant view, but Hoffmann said he was pulling a scarf over his face -- and leading two other men past the front of the store and out of camera range.

A few seconds later, the video showed people running back through the parking lot and cars speeding away.

During those few seconds, according to Hoffmann, Carter confronted Biggs, whose green Lexus was parked in the lot. The parking area was shared with a multiple dwelling Biggs owned.

According to Hoffmann, Carter was planning to rob Biggs and when the latter ran, shots were fired. Biggs was hit in the arm, fell, got up and ran, with Carter allegedly chasing him.

He made it into a back yard at 1537 Whitney Ave., about a block and a half away, where he apparently found he couldn't climb the stockade fence, collapsed and bled to death.

Officer David Bower testified that when the residents found the body the next day, the sneakers had been removed -- they were found in the corner of the yard -- and Biggs' pants were partially down and one pocket was turned inside out.

Hoffmann told the jury in her opening statement that Biggs apparently was robbed after his collapse. She said Biggs died "for a couple dollars he had in his pocket and the jewelry he had on."

Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer offered no counter-scenario, but he did show what he thought of the indictment.

He told the jury, "I'm walking over to the table and showing you what evidentiary value that document has." He then picked up a trash can and tossed the indictment into it.

But its terms put Carter at a severe legal disadvantage. He's charged with murder, robbery and criminal use of a firearm under New York's accomplice liability law.

That means the prosecution doesn't have to prove Carter fired the fatal shot as long as it can show he took part in the crime that led to Biggs' death.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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